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Response to Country Lovers sample essay

The first thing that captured my interest about the story “Country Lovers”, by Nadine Gordimer was the first line. “Right from the opening sentence it is clear that this will be a story about inter–racial relationships. ” ( Claxton, 2010). This sentence caught my attention because it gave me mixed emotions, first of hoping that this forbidden love would have a happy ending, and also a sense of foreboding that this would not be the case due to the inter-racial theme and the setting of the story.

The analytical approach that I choose to evaluate this story would be a reader- response approach. “Reader-response criticism encompasses various approaches to literature that explore and seek to explain the diversity (and often divergence) of readers’ responses to literary works. ” (Bedford, 1998). The reader- response approach is best described as connecting with a piece of work, and finding a personal or creative way to engage with the story. It will most likely come from a personal connection to a character or theme and the emotions that they elicit. In reader-response critical approach, the primary focus falls on the reader and the process of reading rather than on the author or the text.

Theoretical Assumptions: Literature is a performative art and each reading is a performance, analogous to playing/singing a musical work, enacting a drama, etc. Literature exists only when it is read; meaning is an event (versus the New Critical concept of the “affective fallacy”). The literary text possesses no fixed and final meaning or value; there is no one “correct” meaning.

Literary meaning and value are “transactional,” “dialogic,” created by the interaction of the reader and the text. According to Louise Rosenblatt, a poem is “what the reader lives through under the guidance of the text. ” Varying Emphases: How readers interpret texts: Sometimes called “subjective. ” May deal with published “readings” of texts and/or study nonprofessional readings (e. g. , students). These critics explain similarities in readings in varying ways: “styles” or “identity themes” of readers are similar (Norman Holland–psychoanalytic approach): cf.

George Dillon’s classification of students’ responses to Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”: “Character-Action-Moral Style” (“connected knowers”)–treat literature as coextensive with experience “Diggers for Secrets”–find hidden meanings in literature, psychoanalyze motives of characters, etc. “Anthropologists”–look for cultural patterns, norms, values [e. g. feminists, New Historicists].

Readers belong to same “interpretive communities” (Stanley Fish) with shared reading strategies, values and interpretive assumptions (i. e. shared “discourse”); concept of the “informed reader. ” readers are situated in a common cultural/historical setting and shaped by dominant discourses and ideologies (New Historicist emphasis). “Reception theory/aesthetics” studies the changing responses of the general reading public over time. How texts govern reader: Focus on how texts guide, constrain, control reading; often use linguistic, stylistic, narratological methods of analysis. Wolfgang Iser argues that the text in part controls the reader’s responses but contains “gaps” that the reader creatively fills.

There is a tension between “the implied reader,” who is established by the “response-inviting structures” of the text; this type of reader is assumed and created by the work itself “the actual reader,” who brings his/her own experiences and preoccupations to the text. ” (McManus, 1998). For this particular piece of work, I find the reader- response approach to be the most appropriate. I do not feel that there are many people that could not connect to this story on some level.

The setting and the inter-racial love story excluded, there are still the aspects of first loves, and first sexual experiences that most people can identify with. Further into the story you have the aspects of horror at the thought of an innocent baby being murdered, much less at the hands of the babe’s own father. I personally felt outrage at the lack of justice for this lost soul and the knowledge that it is all too common a reality. It would seem that my sense of foreboding at the start of this story was well justified.

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