The house of fiction has in short not one... number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather;...

The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million--a
number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather; every one of
which has been pierced, or is still pierceable, in its vast front, by the
need of the individual vision and by the pressure of the individual
will. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all
together, over the human scene. . . . The spreading field, the human
scene, is the "choice of subject"; the pierced aperture . . . is the
"literary form"; but they are, singly or together, as nothing without the
posted presence of the watcher...
~Henry James, Preface to the New York Edition of Portrait of a Lady
Stanley Fish “proposes that our readings of literary
texts depend not so much on what the texts say in
some intrinsic way as on what he calls interpretive
communities, with their own interpretive strategies
and conventions.”
Interpretation, that is, derives from “preexisting
conventions of interpretation” (Parker 282).
Based on the work of Roman Ingarden, Wolfgang Iser,
and Hans Robert Jauss, critics can speak of a culture
being constructed in people’s minds as a series of
“schemata” (Ingarden) or predictable patterns of
arrangement of things (walls on the side, ceiling above,
floor below, “naturally,” unless you’re a nomad or an
astronaut!). These schemata (plural of “schema”) are part
of “textual strategies” (Iser) which operate because people
within the culture share a common set of understandings
about what’s possible, probable, impossible, etc., their
horizon of expectations (Jauss).
Imagine that you have just read a hundred novels
featuring American Indians (you may also consider
films – contemporary or dated). Jot down a few
characteristics you would find in more or less all one
hundred texts.
Hint: You might think in terms of music/soundtrack,
characters/character types, setting, time period,
conflicts, Etc, Etc.
What does this exercise reveal about our group’s
“horizon of expectations”?
How are interpretive communities that share
conventions / expectations about interpretation and
literary works formed, you think? Discuss cartoon.
“In a structuralist mode that can bear comparison to Fish’s
sense of interpretive communities, Jonathan Culler …
argues that readers bring a specific competence to the
process of reading specific genres of literature. Readers who
are not competent in the rules of reading a novel, for
example, could mistake a novel for a history or a biography,
just as a reader not competent in colloquial speech will
misunderstand such expressions as ‘Hold your horses’ and
‘Don’t go off the deep end.’ For Culler, as a structuralist,
then, the goal of structuralist interpretation, or structuralist
poetics, is not to interpret an individual literary text but
instead to describe the competence that readers depend on
and expect for any particular genre, from sonnets to film
noir, from stage comedies to high school movies or detective
novels” (Parker 283).
This activity is good for helping us to consolidate
what we already know – in this instance – about the
grammar and linguistic conventions of the English
Read the poem “Jabberwocky,” and then answer the
following questions:
1) What did the toves do in the wabe? 2) What sort of
sword did he have? 3) Where did he rest in uffish
thought? 4) How did the Jabberwock come through
the tulgey wood? 5) How did he kill the Jabberwock?
The fact is, we can make some sense of a text like this
without knowing what some of the words mean,
simply by knowing how words work and how they are
ordered, to make up sentences and utterances. We
have already internalized a built-in competence of the
English language that guides how we “read” it.
We can prove this by categorizing the nonsense words
into nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives.
Now categorize the nonsense words into four groups
– nouns, proper nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
How you can tell which category a word is? What
rules or conventions apply?
Tumtum tree
Jujub bird
Tests: A noun can be made plural or possessive. Often identified by
an article that precedes it (an, a, the). A pronoun can substitute
for a noun. Proper nouns are capitalized.
Tests: shows either the action or a state of being.
Tests: Modifies a noun or pronoun. Cannot move in the sentence without
obscuring the meaning.
Now make some of the adjectives into adverbs,
and discuss how this is done.
Many adverbs end in -ly, and if the word
already ends in an -l, another l is added. Words
ending in -y convert to -ily.
Tests: modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb; can often move within a
sentence without changing meaning; answers “How?” and often ends in –ly.