Convergence of text and reader: a study of textual strategies and the formation of configurative meaning in selected works of fiction

Shadi, Mehran
In this study, first, the foundational developments in the domains of linguistics, philosophy of language and literary theory that have led to a transformation of the concept of the reader are reviewed closely. Then, to understand the nature of literary responses, an Interactionalist Model of Readership (IMR) is proposed to explore the two sides of the reader-text interaction and the nature of the final product of the reading act. Using various examples, the interaction between the text and the reader is, then, scrutinized in semiotic, discursive, narrative, and pragmatic levels to show how text communicates with its readers through various channels. Finally, the characteristics of the final product of the readership, namely, the virtual existence of the text, or the aesthetic object, are explored. In the following chapters, this model of readership is put to practice to show how the narrative texts of Tristram Shandy, and The Dispossessed limit and delimit their reader’s creative imagination, by employing a variety of textual techniques and narrative strategies. It is elucidated how these texts limit the arena for the readers’ creative imagination by implementing certain narratorial modes, internal focalizations, and also by sequencing the action of their stories in certain manner. Then, it is demonstrated how these texts invite their readers to play a more active role in the act of concretization by implementing gaps, tantalizing omissions, digressions, alternate stories, and an unreliable narrator, and hence make the arena wider for the readers’ creative imagination.