Transactional Reader-response Theory Chapter 6, Reader Response Criticism Critical Theory Today – A User-friendly Guide By – Lois Tyson

In Critical Theories Today – A User Friendly Guide (2006), Chapter 6, Reader Response Criticism, Lois Tyson presents, among other theories, the Transactional reader-response theory as the text having a strong allegiance with the reader and the interpretations made by the reader and further that the textual meaning can be determinate or indeterminate. She discusses the different approaches that can be taken in order that the interpretation of the text is more complete. She refers to Louise Rosenblatt’s aesthetic approach, while delineating the different tools a text can be approached with. She brings into context the efferent approach as well. According to the discussion it is evident that the writer emphasizes on the aesthetic approach of reading a text, supporting Rosenblatt. While the efferent approach equips the reader to register only the facts presented in the text, the aesthetic approach, appealing to the reader’s aesthetic sense, creates scope for actual transaction to take place. Tyson avers, “In order for this transaction between the text and reader to occur, however, our approach to the text must be aesthetic rather than efferent” (173).

Tyson further says, “…when we read in the aesthetic mode, we experience a personal relationship to the text that focuses our attention on the emotional subtleties of its language and encourages us to make judgments” (173). Tyson’s other arguments on transactional reader-response theory also make sense when she advocates the consequences of reading and interpretation of the text – meaning derived from the text. She says that the meaning could be determinate or indeterminate and it is the reader who has the responsibility to decide between the two. She states, “The interplay between determinate and indeterminate meanings, as we read, results in a number of ongoing experiences for the reader: retrospection, or thinking back to what we’ve read earlier in the text; anticipation of what will come next; fulfillment or disappointment of our anticipation; revision of our understanding of characters and events, and so on” (174). Hence, though it is a very complicated and difficult a task to decide between the determinate and indeterminate meanings yet, the very possibility of a multi-level interpretation of the text makes it more transactional in nature.

The reader feels a compelling and convincing connection with the text he reads; “a range of meanings of which textual support is available” (174) makes the transaction even more engrossing. The process also becomes very interesting because there is the possibility of revisiting the text with several readings and justifying and modifying one’s responses. Hence, the Transactional reader-response theory provides scope for various conversations between the text and the reader making it a pleasurable experience.

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