Study Guide

Hans Robert Jauss - Major Arguments

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Major Arguments

I didn't beat many drums, but the drum I did beat was a big drum. Before I came along, the poor reader was just floating around in the ether—forgotten, forlorn, and forsaken.

Through a thoroughly unscientific study, I realized that readers expect and anticipate all sorts of things in the books they read. The fancy word we use for all of this is Rezeptionsästhetik, which is German for "the aesthetics of reception."

What I was getting at is that a meaningful process occurs between readers and their books. No, I'm not talking about your affection for your dog-eared copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, with all of your undergraduate marginalia. I'm talking about energy, folks. Energy between you and your book. Together, you two make it happen.

The verb "interact" seems a little clinical for what I'm talking about, but I do believe that readers form meaningful relationships with books and that their interpretations and aesthetic opinions change over time. It's all about perception and approaching books as specific phenomena.

Late at night, as you pore over The Crying of Lot 49 in preparation for your midterm the next day, you may feel like a passive globule, but do not despair. You matter, reader. And although they may not always say so in so many words, the books you read really appreciate you and need you.

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