Reflection: Complex Tasks Psst, This Poem Has a Personal Secret for the Reader: Composing the Reader Response Essay - Section 1: Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Time Frame and Context


I'm a bit of a literary theory geek. After learning primarily New Criticism (a.k.a. Formalism) in college, my first encounter with New Historicism was a breath of fresh air and the first time I really began to understand literature beyond structural considerations. 

When I wrote my M.A. thesis on Life of Pi by Yann Martel, I even tested a new theory grounded in science fiction and a response to Donna Haraway's The Cyborg Manifesto. 

Maybe my own lack of visual acuity makes me sympathetic to other ways of seeing. Whatever makes theory appealing to me also helps me see that literature must first speak to students on a personal level. That's what happens in reader response. 

Yet reader response is often reduced to a knee-jerk reaction to a text. How often have students responded to a work of literature only not to talk about the literature, except in passing. I believe this is why the CCSS puts so much emphasis on textual analysis. Many have read the standards as advocating only New Criticism as a way to analyze literature. That is why it behooves all English teachers to learn and understand theory. We need to know the theory so that we can teach our students how to use it to analyze texts, whether by examining their historical context, their ideas about women, etc. 

True reader response is as valid a way for students to examine a text as is New Criticism but only when we teach it in the true spirit of Louise Rosenblatt. 

  Reader Response Theory's Rightful Place in the Classroom
  Complex Tasks: Reader Response Theory's Rightful Place in the Classroom
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Psst, This Poem Has a Personal Secret for the Reader: Composing the Reader Response Essay

Unit 10: Romantic, Victorian, and Modern British Poetry
Lesson 8 of 9

Objective: SWBAT compose a reader response essay that reveals the "transaction" that has occurred between the reader and the text.

Big Idea: "It takes a great reader to make a great book" --Natalia Garibian

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