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Affective stylistics


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Affective stylistics

  1. 1. Page |1Philippine Normal UniversityCollege of Languages, Linguistics and LiteratureDepartment of Languages, Bilingual Education and LiteratureSubject: Litt 502 (Introduction to Stylistics)Topic: Affective StylisticsDiscussant: Manuel, Jesullyna C.MAed- LiteratureSeptember 26, 2009 AFFECTIVE STYLISTICS: EXPLORING THE TEXT, THE READER AND THE READER’S RESPONSEI. INTRODUCTION Philosophers from Plato to the nineteenth century recognize the central importance of the reader in their theories of art or poetry. Platos banishment of poets from his Republic was due as much to the unhealthy influence that poetry had upon the reader as to its suspect ontological status as an "imitation of an imitation." Horace, on the other hand, saw the legitimate purpose of poetry as "to please and to instruct" the reader. In both of these cases, however (and for most of the two thousand years since) the reader is viewed as an essentially passive recipient of the work of art. With Percy Byshe Shelleys declaration that poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world" the Romantic movement of the early nineteenth century shiftedAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  2. 2. Page |2 the focus of literary criticism from the reader to the author. But it was not until the advent of New Criticism, with its focus solely on the formal elements of the text (to the exclusion of authorial intention and cultural or historical significance) that a consideration of the readers role in literary interpretation was condemned as the "affective fallacy." Once a consideration of the readers role had been identified as a critical heresy, those who chose to focus on this aspect of the literary endeavor, whether from a structuralist, psychoanalytic, or phenomenological perspective, were grouped together under the umbrella term of reader-response theory. II. AFFECTIVE STYLISTICS AND ITS MEANING Affective Stylistics is a term used by Stanley Eugene Fish to describe thenecessary reliance of the critic upon his or her affective responses to stylistics elementsin the text. According to Fish, the literary text is not formally self-sufficient; it is createdin part by the interpretive strategy that the reader deploys. One must therefore analyze"the developing responses of the reader in relation to the words as they succeed oneanother in time." The work and its result are one and the same thing; what a text is whata text does. ( Affective stylistics is derived from analyzing further the notion that a literary text isan event that occurs in time- that comes into being as it is read rather than an objectAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  3. 3. Page |3that exists in space. The text is examined closely, often line by line or even word forword in order to understand how (stylistics) it affects (affective) the reader in theprocess of reading. Although there is thus a great deal of focus on the text, which is whysome theorists consider this approach highly transactional in nature, many practitionersof affective stylistics do not consider the text an objective, autonomous entity- it doesnot have fixed meaning independent of readers- because the text consists of the resultsoccur within the reader. For example, when Stanley Fish describes how a text isstructured, the structure he describes is the structure of the reader’s response as itoccurs from moment to moment, not the structure of the text as we may assemble it-like puzzle pieces all spread out at once before us- after the reader’s impressionisticresponses but a cognitive analysis of the mental processes produced by a specificelements in the text. Indeed, it is the “slow motion,” phrase by phrase analysis of how atext structures the reader’s response for which affective stylistics is perhaps bestknown. In his book, Is There a Text in this Class, (1980), Fish emphasizes that thereader controls his or her experiences when reading and there is a less control of thetext in the interpretive act. Fish’s position holds that the readers actually create a pieceof literature as they read the text. Fish concludes that every reading results in a newinterpretation that comes about because of the strategies the reader’s use. Fish alsogives emphasis to the role of his so called “interpretive community” whereby meaning isAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  4. 4. Page |4attributed to a text through readers who, as members of such a group, share certain“interpretive assumptions”. In recent years various reader-response theorists haveturned to the concept of Fish’s interpretive communities to more fully account for thediversity of readers interpretations of literary texts. Fish has moved away from his earlybelief that all "informed readers" will arrive at similar interpretations of a single text, andnow recognizes the fact that various interpretive communities will shape their membersreading experiences in different ways. Ironically, while Fish uses the concept to accountfor diversity of interpretation, Holland sees membership in a particular interpretivecommunity as a means of accounting for similarity of interpretation between individualswith different identity themes. The affective stylistics of Stanley Fish is based, in part, on the factthat readers dont defer their interpretation of a story, a poem, or even a single sentenceuntil the end, but constantly create meaning based upon limited knowledge. As newinformation is gathered, prior interpretations must be modified or rejected. While othercritics might ignore this process, Fish sees the modification of prior interpretations as aninherent part of the texts meaning. That Judas perished by hanging himself, there is no certainty in the scripture: though in one place it seems to appear it, and by a doubtful word hath given occasion to translate it; yet in another place, in a more punctual description, it maketh it improbable, and seems to overthrow it. (“Literature” 71)Affective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  5. 5. Page |5According to Fish, the question “What does this sentence mean?” or “What does thissentence say?” yields little because the sentence provides us with no facts with whichwe could answer the question. Even if we notice that the sentence does say something-it says the scripture gives no indication of whether or not Judas hanged himself- his pointis that the sentence tells us only that it is unable to tell us anything. In contrast, he notes,the question “What does this sentence do to the reader?” or “How does the reader of thissentence make meaning?” yield something quite useful. What this passage about Judas does, Fish notes, is move the reader fromcertainty to uncertainty. The first clause “That Judas perished by hanging himself, (whichis quite shorthand because most of us know that Judas hanged himself) is an assertionwe accept as a statement of fact. We, thus, begin with feeling of certainty that leads uswithout being quite conscious of it anticipate a number of possible way in which thesentence might end all of which would confirm our uncertainty. Fish offers these threeexamples of the kinds of endings the first clause leads us to expect. 1.) That Judas perished by hanging himself is (an example for us all) 2.) That Judas perished by hanging himself shows (how conscious he was of the enormity of his sin) 3.) That Judas perished by hanging himself should (give us a pause). (“Literature” 71).Affective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  6. 6. Page |6 These expectations narrow the possible meaning of the next threewords in the passage “there is no.” At this point, the reader expects to see “there is nodoubt” but is given instead of “there is no certainty”. Now the fact the Judas hanginghimself, upon which our understanding of the sentence has rested, becomes uncertain.Now the reader is involved in another kind of activity. As Fish puts it, “rather thanfollowing an argument on a well lighted path (a light, after all has gone out), [Thereaders] is now looking for one. In such situation, the reader will tend to read thepassage, in hopes of finding clarification. But as we continue to read the passage, ouruncertainty only increases as we move back and forth between words that promisedclarity- “place”, “affirm”, “place”, “punctual”, “overthrow”, and words that seem towithdraw that promise: “thought”, “doubtful”, “yet”, “improbable”, “seems.” Uncertainty isfurther increased by the excessive use of the pronoun it because, as the sentenceprogresses, the reader has more and more difficulty figuring out what it refers to. Such analyses are performed by the reader’s response critics in order to map thepattern by which a text structures the reader’s response while reading. This responsethen, used to show that the meaning of the text does not consists the final conclusion wedraw about what the text says; rather, the meaning of the text consists of our experienceof what text does to us as we read. For a text is an event that occurs in time; it acts on usas we read each word and phrase. As we just saw in Fish’s passage first reinforces ourbelief about Judas, the reader probably already holds and then takes that reinforcementaway, leading the reader on in hopes of finding an answer that is never provided. If thisAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  7. 7. Page |7kind of experience is created in the passage is repeated throughout the text from whichthe passage is taken, then a reader response critic might say that the text teaches us,through a pattern of raised expectations disappointed, how to read that text, and perhapshow to read the world: We must expect that our expectation of acquiring sure knowledgeraised and disappointed. We desire sure knowledge. We pursue it, and we expect to getit. But this text teaches us that we cannot be certain of anything. In other words, this textis not only about Judas or the Scripture, but it is about the experience of reading. (Tyson,1975) III. SOCIAL READER-RESPONSE THEORY While the reader’s subjective response to the literary text plays the crucialrole in subjective response theory, for social reader response theory, usually associatedwith the later works of Stanley Fish, there is no purely individual subjective response.According to Fish, what we take to be our individual subjective responses to literature isreally a product of the interpretive community to which we belong. By interpretivecommunity, Fish means those who share the interpretive strategies we bring to textswhen we read, whether or not we realize we’re using interpretive strategies and whetheror not we are aware that other people share them. These interpretive strategies alwaysresults from various sorts of institutionalized assumptions (assumptions established, forexample in high school, churches, and colleges by prevailing cultural attitudes andAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  8. 8. Page |8philosophies) about what makes a text a piece of literature- instead of a letter or a legaldocument or a church sermon- and what meaning we are supposed to find in it. (LoisTyson, 2006) An interpretive community can be as sophisticated and aware of its criticalenterprise as the community produced by the followers of a specific Marxist criticaltheorist. Or an interpretive community can be unsophisticated and unaware of itsinterpretive strategies as the community produced by a high school teacher who instructhis students that it is natural to read literature in search of a static symbols that tells usthe “hidden meaning” of the story. Of course interpretive communities are not static; theyevolve over time. And readers can belong consciously or unconsciously, to more thanone community at the same time, or they can change from one community to another atdifferent times in their lives. (Tyson, 2006) In any case, all readers come to the text already predisposed to interpret in acertain way based on whatever interpretive strategies are operating for them at the timethat they read. Thus, while Bleich (1975) believes his students produces communalauthority through negotiation that occurs after they read the texts, Fish claims that themultiplicity of interpretive communities to which the students already belong, determineshow the students read the text in the first place. Fish establishes that readers do notinterpret poem. They create them. He demonstrated this point rather dramatically whenhe taught two college courses back to back. At the end of the first class he wrote anAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  9. 9. Page |9assignment on the board consisted of the following linguists’ names his students werestudying. Jacobs- Rosenbaum Levin Thorne Hayes Ohman (?) (Is There a Text? 323) When his second class entered the room, he told them that the writing on theboard was a seventeenth century religious poem like the ones that they have beenstudying. In the discussion that ensued, his students concluded that the poem celebratedGod’s love and mercy in giving his only begotten son for our redemption. Theirinterpretation accounted beautifully for every word in the poem, including among otherevidence the following points: The poem is in the shape of the cross or an altar; “Jacobs”suggests Jacob’s ladder, a reference to the Christian ascent into heaven; “Rosenbaum”literally means rose tree and refers to the Virgin Mary, the rose without thorns, whoseson Jesus is the means by which human being can climb to heaven; “Thorne” thus refersto Jesus crown of thorns, a symbol of the sacrifice he made to redeem us; and the lettersthat occur most frequently in the poem are S,O,N ( Is There A Text? 322-29) Fish’s point was proven that every literary judgment we make, including thejudgment that a particular piece of writing is a poem, results from the interpretivestrategies we bring with us as we read the textAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  10. 10. P a g e | 10 IV. READER’S RESPONSE THEORY TERMS AND PRINCIPLES Unlike such rigorous theoretical approaches to literature asdeconstruction, psychoanalysis, or Marxism, reader-response criticism is less a single,unified method of literary analysis than a collect ion of varied approaches with onespecial interest in common--namely, the role of the reader in interpreting--orexperiencing--a work of literature There are really two kinds of reader-response criticism: one is aphenomenological approach to reading which characterizes much of Fishs earlier work,and the other is an epistemological theory characteristic of Fishs later work. Thephenomenological method has much to commend itself to us as it focuses on whathappens in the readers mind as he or she reads. Fish applies this method in his earlywork "Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost." His thesis in this work is thatMilton used a number of literary techniques intentionally to lead the reader into a falsesense of security whereupon he would effect a turn from the readers expectations inorder to surprise the reader with his own prideful self-sufficiency. The supposed intent ofMilton was to force the reader to see his own sinfulness in a new light and be forcedback to Gods grace. Fishs thesis is a rather ingenious approach to Paradise Lost and toMiltons (mis)leading of the reader ( Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  11. 11. P a g e | 11 Common Assumptions of Reader-Response Theories: Reading may be The text is a program Readers responses to Readers actively analyzed in its designed to produce texts may be predicted Readers follow learned construct the texts "temporal" or events in readers because of recurrentinterpretive rules or meaning by processes diachronic minds, not all of them patterns in those textsconventions (see Tyson which are not dimension just as "correct." Texts try to which are presumed toon Culler [1975], 230- necessarily linear but Structuralism mislead us and we manipulate processes2) which can be analyzed texts in make predictable run by readers rules or predicted. their synchronic mistakes. conventions. dimensions. Types of Reader-Response Methods, Objectives and Terms: R-R Type / "Reader" Definition "Text" Definition Processes Studied Practitioner efferent vs. aesthetic reading (LR) No prior-constraints on A set of instructions who qualifies as a "reader," coded in words on the stimulus function produces Transactional defined as a "poem" page, from which meaning and blueprint function Reader-Response-- corrects meaning (LR) constructor (Rosenblatt); readers make Louise. Rosenblatt OR a more precisely "poems," acting at (1978), Wolfgang Iser anticipation, retrospection, defined "implied reader" times as a "blueprint" fulfillment or disappointment, (1974), and Wayne whose beliefs and to correct assumptionsrevision of understanding (WI) Booths Rhetoric of conventions may be inferred (LR) or to project Fiction, (1961) from the texts strategies meanings upon the (Iser and Booth) text (WI) Affective Stylistics-- Slow-motion analysis of No fixed meaning Stanley Fish (the Literature is designed for sentences release and independent of "Early Fish" of the "informed reader" who concealment of meaning in the readers, but rather the Surprised by Sin: The has achieved a definable readers processing of syntactic product of how the Reader in Paradise "literary competency" for complexity and usages power work affects its Lost, 1967) The "Later the genre and era from to generate denotative and readers, phrase by Fish" lost his belief that which the work arises connotative varieties of phrase, clause by texts produced any meaning. clause, sentence by stable meanings for Affective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  12. 12. P a g e | 12readers unless thosereaders belonged to"discourse sentence.communities" that toldthem what texts meant. Readers are psychological Symbolization (the symbolic The text in the mind, world our minds create in subjects who may discoverSubjective Reader- which we observe by response to the text) their unconscious motivesResponse--David means of reading by observing their habits ofBleich (1975) protocols recording Resymbolization (what our meaning-distortion. There what we thought the unconscious inscribes upon is no such thing as a(A subset of printed text meant and what we read)Psychological Reader- "misreading" of the primary how we responded toResponse) text in Subjective R-R that text/meaning. criticism, only symptoms. The text of the readers interpretations of Readers are psychological perceived threats in literature literature are the subjects whose unconscious critics true "text" and drives may be studied by defense strategies they are read for examining theirPsychological Reader- thematic repetitions of interpretations of texts for fantasy strategiesResponse--Norman addition to or the errors of omission andHolland (1975) subtraction of the transformation strategies commission they reveal. literary work which Holland recognizes reveal the readers anxiety reduction "misreading" but still treats "life themes," their it as a readers "symptom." personalities grounding narratives about existence. Readers form "communities of interpretation" based on actions of self-awareSocial Reader- shared beliefs about the Whatever the interpretive communitiesResponse--Stanley interpretiveFish (the Later Fish of world, texts, and reading community says the actions of unconsciousIs there a text in this behaviors. Those beliefs interpretive communities establish legitimate and "text" is.class?,1980. illegitimate categories of behavior for readers, andAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  13. 13. P a g e | 13 define unacceptable or acceptable interpretations.( V. CONCLUSION • The explanation of the meaning is not in the capacity of the syntax to explain but rather it is in the capacity of the reader to discern the meaning of a particular text. • Meanings are actualized in the process of reading. • It gives emphasis on the ability of man to give the world meaning rather than to extract meaning that is already there. • The experience of the reader while reading is an important aspect that critics should focus on. • That meaning is not the property of a timeless formalism, but something acquired in the context of activity. • Consciously or unconsciously we are all a part of interpretive community and we uses our background when we interpret the text • Interpretations will always be controlled by the relatively limited repertoire of interpretive strategies available at any given point.Affective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  14. 14. P a g e | 14 VI. REFERENCESBleich, David. Readings and Feeling: An Introduction to Subjective Criticism . Urbana,IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1975Fish, Stanley. Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities .Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980.Guerin, Wilfred L. et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature Fourth Edition.Oxford University Press. 1999.Selden, Raman A Reader’s Contemporary Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory ThirdEdition1993Searle, Leroy. Critical Theory Since 1965, New York, 1986Tyson, Lois, Critical Theory Today. New York 2006Weber, J. The Stylistics Reader. New York. 1996 Sparksnote.comwww.library.utoronto.comwww.googlebooks.comAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)
  15. 15. P a g e | 15www.wikipedia.comwww.scribd.comAffective Stylistics (Exploring the Text, the Reader and the Reader’s Response)