TEXT AND READER: A COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO "THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN" BY JOHN FOWLES, "LETTERS" BY JOHN BARTH, "LIBRO DE MANUEL" BY JULIO CORTAZAR, AND "DE KAPELLEKENSBAAN" BY LOUIS PAUL BOON
Abstract (Summary)The aim of Text and Reader is to find a critical approach that links a novel's form to its socio-cultural context, and to apply this approach to four contemporary novels by an English, an American, an Argentinian, and a Flemish novelist. The first chapter of Text and Reader sketches a communicative approach to the novel, and combines elements from reception aesthetics, speech act theory, and frame analysis. The basis of this communicative approach is the aesthetic response theory of Wolfgang Iser. Iser analyses a literary work of art as entering into a dialogue with its period norms via its repertoire--and specifically via its repertorial negations--and as guiding its reader's experiences through the effects it achieves by its use of narrative strategies--and specifically of strategical blanks. As Iser's definition of these blanks--discontinuity between narrative perspectives--and his description of how, in specific instances, these blanks guide the reader's experiences is rather vague it is suggested that speech act theory as applied to literature both by literary and linguistic theoreticians, and Erving Goffman's "frame analysis" might contribute toward refining Iser's notions. Specifically, it is argued that a reader has certain conventional speech act and frame expectation with regard to a novel, and that anything problematizing these expectations leads to Iser's "discontinuity" and hence functions as a blank. Separate chapters apply the approach sketched in the first chapter to John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Barth's Letters, Julio Cortazar's Libro de Manuel, and Louis Paul Boon's De Kapellekensbaan. The communicative approach enables us to reconstruct the communicative interchange taking place between the texts and their period readers and to determine how these readers are guided in their reading experience by the blanks that follow from the problematic aspects of each of these novels. The relationship the novels establish with their period audience combined with their repertoire give us insight into the dialectic each novel conducts with its society. The particular form of each novel--its repertoire and strategies combined and interrelated--is determined by the particular effects its author wants his work to achieve in the mind of his period readers: the form of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Letters, Libro de Manuel, and De Kappellekensbaan directly issues from the attitudes Fowles, Barth, Cortazar, and Boon want their readers to adopt vis-a-vis their society as a result of their reading experience. Although in Text and Reader applied exclusively to four contemporary novels, the communicative approach advocated in this study also offers the possibility of studying changes in repertoire and technique as they manifest themselves over longer periods of the genre's history as directly issuing from changes in the socio-cultural context because it investigates the particular form a novel takes as correlative to that novel's communicative function.
School Location:USA - Massachusetts
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/1981