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Reader Response Theory

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Presentation on theme: "Reader Response Theory"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reader Response Theory
An Inside Look

2 Four Types of Reader Response Theories Historical Mythological Sociological Gender

3 Historical Strategy Assumes that every work is a product of the historic moment that created it The work itself is an interpretation of history and it is reflected in the literature The work examines cause/effect relationships 3 tiers: history, author, & reader (simultaneous) We cannot look at history objectively; rather we interpret events as products of our time and culture When looking at Cinderella, I note the differences among Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Disney’s version in the ‘50s. Not the way the stepdaughters look: beautiful in Grimm, hideous in ‘50s America. In Note, too, that the ugly stepsisters are round while Cinderella is thin. What going on: threat of the breakdown of the nuclear family after women worked during WWII and resisted returning to the old “Leave it to Beaver” family structure. Post WWII fears. Cause/Effect relationships: if you are good, pious, gentle, and beautiful, you will get what you want. If you don’t, you won’t. If you are too greedy, that greed will cause destruction. History, author, & reader work simultaneously: each is a different interaction. People in the past agreed with the familial hierarchy; men were absent from their daughters’ lives, and step families uncommon. The author comments on these societal events, and we interpret the text based on what is happening in the world now. We are currently living historical events. The losers of history do not have the means to write their stories, nor is there usually an audience interested in hearing them. Most cultures, once dominated by another, are forced to forget their past. To maintain its sovereignty, the culture of power simply does not allow the defeated culture to be remembered. The winner writes history—the losers’ voices are lost.

4 Historical Theory: Cinderella Revealed
Let’s apply the historical strategy to Disney’s Cinderella. How did the events of 1950 impact Walt Disney’s interpretation of Cinderella. Post World War II Push for conservatism and traditional values Separate but equal is established as the best way to educate white and minority students. Rigid social/gender norms are enforced One does not associate beyond class: the fat mouse loves Cinderella, but cannot act on it as mice and people don’t marry. If the mice are symbolic of people of color, people of color and white people don’t marry.

5 Analysis of Historical Impact: Cinderella
1950 Cinderella Push for conservatism and traditional values Conformity Separate but equal Rigid social/gender norms Cinderella’s role Pious, chaste, modest Seeking an acceptable marriage partner Cinderella-does not challenge norms She waits quietly until her prince rescues her Social class Mice, can be seen as minorities in the text Assist her but are not equal to her; relies on them to work for/along with her What can we infer about the society in which this story—considering, especially, the violence and vengeance in the Grimm version—would evolve and be told to young children? What can we infer about property and inheritance laws in the society in which “Cinderella” evolved? What can we infer about the society’s view of royalty and monarchic power?

6 Historical Response: Questions to Consider
What language/characters/events present in the work reflect the current events of the author’s day? What can we infer about society? How are events' interpretation and presentation a product of the culture of the author? What social, cultural, political events were occurring at the time the piece was written? How do they contribute to the product? Does the work's presentation support or condemn the event? Can it be seen to do both? How does this portrayal criticize the leading political figures or movements of the day? People of the upper class denigrate the proletariat—keep the separation. The feeling that the lower class is inferior is exemplified in the stepsisters’ song “Cinderella, Cinderella, you are nothing Cinderella.” Talked about the author’s culture a bit...can go more. End of WWII, cold war, similar circumstances to F451. Breakdown of nuclear family feared. In addition, blended families were unusual and stresses occurred as a result. Supports the old fashioned nature of family life with the father working and disconnected from the family. In the American version, though, Cinderella’s father, nameless (nameless in Grimm, too), dies. This reveals a fear that if the provider dies, the child(ren) suffer as well. Could be seen as a critique of women’s desire to continue their toils in the workplace, especially when looking at the stepmother who becomes the head of the household and her negative portrayal. Condemns the idea that women break free of constraints and move away from the nuclear family.

7 Mythological Strategy
Interprets hopes, fears, & expectations of entire cultures Uses universal symbols to which people from all cultures can relate: account for characters’ lives symbolically Focuses on a culture’s perceptions about itself Looks for underlying, recurrent patterns in literature that reveal universal meanings and basic human experiences Explains how archetypes are embodied in literary works Archetypal characters Archetypal images Archetypal situations Cinderella looks at hopes, fears, and expectations common to people in all cultures—not just western ideologies but Eastern, Southern, and Northern. Note the fear of being excluded and poverty-stricken, the desire to climb out of one’s social structure into wealth, and an expectation that kindness will create a sense of belonging. Despite the version of Cinderella, the kind, beautiful, hardworking girl ultimately gains apotheosis (god-like stature). Universal symbols: the birds=freedom, connection to nature; 3=sacred number, one of which an allusion to the Trinity (shows completion); the other is the idea of completion: the balance of two opposites (the evilness of each stepdaughter who represent the pettiness that Cinderella must harness and the strength she must embody). The ball is symbolic of leaving behind privation and moving into opulence. The way a culture perceives itself is determined through the stories it tells. In Disney, we see a culture that equates physical beauty with spiritual and emotional beauty, and we see ugliness represented both in looks and in deed. In Grimm’s fairy tales, ugliness can rest in physical beauty and it’s up to each person to sift through that external appearance to find the truth. Underlying patterns in literature: characters contain qualities we look up to or abhor; images of

8 Explains how archetypes are embodied in literary works
Archetype: prototype, prime example, and model a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches All characters possess qualities of the original model: warrior, healer, fool, etc.

9 Mythological Strategy: Cinderella Revealed
Archetypes: Mother Figure Usually an older character The Innocent The Hero The Evil Figure Cinderella Fairy Godmother The Prince The Stepmother Stepmother & stepsisters act as archetypal villians Cinderella’s tasks also archetypal (the peas and the grain)—she undergoes a difficult task to achieve her ultimate goal of going to the ball. Look at the lack of difficult tasks in Disney

10 Mythological Response: Questions to Consider
How does the story resemble other stories in plot, character, setting, or use of symbols? Are archetypes presented, such as quests, initiations, scapegoats, or withdrawals and returns? How are they presented? Does the protagonist undergo any kind of transformation such as a movement from innocence to experience that seems archetypal? Are there any specific allusions to myths that shed light on the text? Note similarities among “Cinderella” and “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty” etc. with the idea of the powerless, beautiful protagonist, the handsome, immature, possessive prince, etc. Compare the archetypes, symbol of the “Three”, etc. Trinity Opposites and center/balance The women do not go on a quest, though the prince, a subsidiary character, does. Still, Cinderella does embody a union with nature as she asks animals for their help. In addition, the tree that grows from the twig her father gives is a form of vegetationsdaemon. The only transformation for Cinderella is physical...she remains kind. No real allusions...most of the connections are historical in nature, though one could assume that the allusions deal with the same cycle of sleeping beauties awoken to their sexual potential. Alludes to the original story. Fairy god-mother borrowed from old Celtic stories of the Sidhe who visited the earth and possessed charms. She’s a parody and satire of the original, belittling dangerous creatures.

11 Sociological Strategy
Examines social groups, relationships, and values Emphasizes the nature of social forces that shape power relationships between groups or classes of people Documents (reflecting) social conditions or a product of those conditions The mice exist under one social group—the lowest. They forage for food, help Cinderella, and resent the stepmother and stepsisters. Cinderella is also low, moved from upper middle class when her mother (and father in Disney) dies; step family want to move up through marriage and the prince is the highest, only way to get there. Upper classes look down on the lower and except for the ball, they do not meet. The only condition: look wealthy. Cinderella forced out of her rightful inheritance and turned into a servant in her own home. Power goes to those strong or forceful enough to hold onto it. Stepmother inherits it from her husband and perceived cruel as a result. The prince is the rightful heir…difficult to move up if one isn’t born into wealth. Three women want to join ranks of bourgeoisie by marrying the prince, the other uses her daughters to do so. To get there, she has to treat the one threat to the throne with cruelty.

12 Sociological Strategy: Cinderella Revealed
Applying the theory to the film: When using social theory, we are attempting to see in social class is at play in the film. How does social order impact characters and their outcomes in the film.

13 Social Class Class Norms Cinderella Hierarchy of class
Upper, middle, lower class norms, examples Social Class and Marriage Cinderella’s hierarchy Part of upper/noble class until father’s death She is a servant in her home, above only her animal servants Stepmother and sisters part of noble class. Relationships Cinderella has to dress up to attend ball Prince uses shoe to identify Cinderella Prince is an acceptable mate based on his social class

14 Sociological Response: Questions to Consider
How are class differences presented in the work? Are characters aware or unaware of the economic and social forces that affect their lives? How do economic conditions determine the characters’ lives? What ideological values are explicit or implicit? Does the work challenge or affirm the social order it describes? How are men’s and women’s lives portrayed in the work? Do the men and women in the work accept or reject these roles?

15 Feminist Strategy Feminist critics look to see how male dominated cultural and economic institutions have alienated women, giving them the “other” status in our society. Feminist critics hold these traits in common: Our civilization is patriarchal Gender is socially/culturally constructed by patriarchal biases in our civilization Patriarchal ideologies are represented in “great” literature Authentic female characters, voices and experiences are left out of literature. Most literature is written by men towards male audiences.

16 Feminist Strategy: Cinderella Revealed
Applying Gender theory to the film, we would be examining the portrayal of men and women in the text. How do the characters reinforce gender bias and stereotypes?

17 Cinderella’s Gender Biases
Gender Stereotype Cinderella Women: Nurturing, kind, passive, non-logical, not powerful Beautiful, skinny Willing to marry, waiting for Marriage Manipulative, catty Men Logical-problem solvers Strong Handsome and powerful Cinderella White, beautiful, passive, kind, waiting for a Prince to rescue her Stepmother/sister Ugly, vindictive, evil, cruel and jealous of Cinderella’s beauty Prince: Handsome, strong Figures out how to solve the problem Rescues Cinderella

18 Gender Theory Questions to Consider
How is the relationship between men and women portrayed? What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)? How are male and female roles defined? What constitutes masculinity and femininity? How do characters embody these traits? Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others’ reactions to them? Does the work challenge or affirm traditional ideas about men and women?

19 Brought to you by Ms. Gottner and Mrs
Brought to you by Ms. Gottner and Mrs. Kittel who try to enlighten and entertain and energize through stimulating intellectual exercises.

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