Anglerfish Reader-Response Criticism
By: Derek Hobson
Abstract. All critics adhere to reader-response criticism, but many under the guise of psycho-analytic, new historicism, postcolonial, et al. This is due to the fact that critics are in the same field as writers and want to reverse-engineer their stories to reproduce works of their own (see Bloom). In nature, this is most apparent in the Anglerfish and how it reproducing with a mini male (critic) and an iconic female (author).
Every paper, essay, review, and criticism is a form of Reader-Response Criticism.
For those just joining us, Reader-Response is the technical term for English enthusiasts for essays or papers that are written with the basic premise, “I believe the story is about…”
Now, by most people in the field, Reader-Response criticism is considered flawed and an ineffective means of objectively viewing a piece of art. It relies on the critic’s feelings and experience towards the piece rather than on research or authorial intent.
This is further evidenced by the fact that anyone still practicing literary criticism–which is largely considered dead–focuses on these: Psycho-Analytic, New Criticism, Historical Context, Deconstruction, et al. Most of which are self-explanatory in title, with the exception of New Criticism which is the most akin to Reader-Response since it attempts to view the art alone.
Regardless of literary criticism’s TOD, however, I stand by my assumption that all forms of criticism are a form of Reader-Response. In fact, I purport that all other forms of criticism were established to allow RR criticism to be concealed under facts and evidence from objective sources.
Essentially, on its own RR criticism lacks credibility, so it adopts new forms like Psycho-Analytic to detail the critic’s perspective, background, and experience, but under the guise of universality. The act of interpreting a text for a wider audience is ironically an attempt to narrow the scope of the text from all people to one: the critic.
This is especially telling in the difference of narration
: 1st and 3rd. As mentioned, most scholars shift from RR to more academic papers which features a shift from the first person “I feel that the text…” to the third, “the text evokes…” This helps eradicate the ego of critics from readers, but there is no mistake who the narrator is. Therefore, on its own, the very act of writing a paper is a way of disguising oneself to deliver one’s message.
For the purpose of this dissertation, “the critic” will be the male form of the Anglerfish, while the author will be represented by the female version of the Anglerfish.
The reason for this is not to get into a gender debate, but because it most accurately represents the writer/reader relationship. The female anglerfish dangles an extension of itself before others (with authors, the novel). Some people become consumed by it, but critics are all people within the same field or in this case, species–therefore neither prey, nor predator.
So the critic represents the male anglerfish. Why? The male anglerfish is a small; miniscule compared to its female counterpart, in this case an author of critical acclaim. So the male, attaches itself to the female and literally fuses to the females circulation system. In this way, the male receives nutrients and provides the female with fertilization.
In writing, what separates the critic from readers is that they are not prey; they do not fall victim to flowery prose or artistic conceit. They view the art objectively.
In this way, prey is equivocal to casual readers and thereby RR criticism on its own merits. It appears to be whimsy and unsubstantiated and a result of too much wonder but not enough fact; they are stargazers.
The critic however is drawn to the female in a similar matter but through the sense of scent, not sight. Now this article will not begin to dissect the value of the different sensory paths, but smell is less often the victim of illusion.
The critic, male anglerfish, latches itself onto the author and is fed nutrients (information, honesty, truth). However, this knowledge imparted upon the critic by the writer is filtered through the critic himself (him, used here, for the male anglerfish and not as a misogynist mistake), thereby forwarding the RR theory. Taking the author’s history and/or mental health into account, the critic can deliver his message about what the art (i.e. text, flashy light) means under the guise of credibility.
This parasitic relationship is all the more fitting, as this develops offspring in the same vein of the original author–forwarding Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence.
The relationship is further parasitic in the medium: the novel. To read requires an active approach of a reader. Whereas a movie is a passive experience, a novelist requires a reader. And as I’ve said, the authors’ intent appears to be for the reader to provide their life (the authors’) with meaning… fittingly, the reverse is true as well–further symbolized in the attached circulatory system of the anglerfish.
This dependence on the reader means that the reader’s opinion is law. No reader is exactly alike however, all will find some form of value in the text–except those who discredit the novel, which is a rejection of the novel–those not enamored with a flashy light. This is to say that all interpretations of a text are correct and the criticisms are more about the critic than the author.
For critics, the ego is hardly diminished. The act of being read builds ego. When writing a praiseworthy review, a person enacts Bloom’s Apophrades; they accept the work as a part of their genealogy.
When writing a scathing review, it is not the author’s work that fails, but the critic’s inability to connect. In that way, the harsh critic is a metaphor for sexual impotence. The critic cannot deny being drawn to the light–reading the novel–but does not reproduce, i.e. fails at creating something better–which would otherwise be an acceptance of the author by apophrades.
As males and females should all be able to procreate, it cannot be the author’s shortcoming, unless less evolved. Deconstruction criticism allows for negative criticism without male impotence and thereby is the most misogynist of the criticisms because it proclaims the author is barren. Deconstruction treats the text like art but claims the artist is unaware; or created art by a stroke of luck.
As an aside, New Criticism is a monogamous critic; New Historicism is a polygamous critic; Feminism is a reversal of gender roles; etc.
There’s a reason critics are not in the same species as readers, and that’s because they are intended to write. Learning what makes a classic author great, is what helps the critic to become the next author.
In short, criticism of literature is the scholar’s way of reverse engineering a story.
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