The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Doctoral Student (and Full-Time Teacher)

September 27, 2010

Reading Rosenblatt

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 12:15 am

As part of my class obligations for a course titled Studies in Literature for Teachers (or something like that), I am responsible for blogging about a text I am reading. It works out great for students, we get to select the text we are reading and we get to deviate from the traditional reflection paper! Student choice = happy students. It’s funny how the basics of teaching stay the same, whether it be middle school, pre-school, or graduate school.

For my independent reading text this semester, I chose Making Meaning with Texts: Selected Essays by Louise Rosenblatt (2005). Before this summer, I had never heard of Louise Rosenblatt, let alone read any of her work. It’s actually quite sad, because she has been publishing since the late 1930’s, which is no small feat for a woman at that time (which may explain why I had not heard of her prior to this summer). Rosenblatt was part of the Reader-Response school of thought.

Rosenblatt went to school at Barnard College, which was the women’s college of Columbia University. At Barnard, Roseblatt roomed with Margaret Mead, who later became an important American anthropologist.

Margaret Mead

She was also influenced by John Dewey, who was a professor in the philosophy department at Columbia, when Rosenblatt returned to Barnard to teach.

John Dewey

The first chapter of Making Meaning with Texts: Selected Essays gives readers an overview of Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory of reading. This theory, which is not to be mistaken with a method or reading, states that there are two stances when one reads, efferent and aesthetic. Efferent reading is when the reader is looking to take away information from a text. In contrast, aesthetic reading is close to what teachers may describe as “reading for pleasure.” In aesthetic reading, the reader creates meaning within themselves. Rosenblatt contented that the majority of reading done in schools focused on the efferent stance, and assessments reflected that.

We live in a world of extremes, it’s A or it’s Z, you are on my side or you are on his size, Team Edward or Team Jacob. It seems that we have to pick one side or the other. However, Rosenblatt did not see reading as an experience of extremes. In fact, she points out that a reading experience is hardly ever completely efferent or completely aesthetic. Most often, a reader has both experiences within a single text. Twilight would most certainly NOT be described as high-brow literature or comparable to the beloved canons, but it is not impossible for a reader to have an efferent experience when reading Twilight. The same can be said with reading the newspaper. News writing is, at most, at the 8th grade reading level. It’s style is meant to give readers the main point quickly. The purpose of a newspaper is to read for information, to read efferently. However, it is not impossible for a reader to have an aesthetic reading experience while reading the newspaper. Perhaps it is the tactile interaction that one’s hands has with the dependable newsprint. It may be the reading of a particularly moving obituary, or perhaps it’s a notable image.

Monk Setting Self On Fire- Vietnam War

The most important thing to keep in mind when reading Rosenblatt is that the reader plays a vital role in the reading experience. The reader’s response and interpretation of a text is as important as the text itself.

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