chapter  6
Analysing the Reader: A Critical Survey of Recent Psychoanalytical Theories of Reading
Pages 15

It is stating the obvious if I say that the mainstream of psychoanalytical criticism has been concerned with the deccxiing of a symbolic matrix in a literary work. ~at formerly quite often came to the fore, was a parade of phalluses, vaginas, anuses, oedipuses, when Freud was follONed, or myths, when Jung was the chosen guide. In my present contribution I should like to draw your attention to psychoanalytical theories dealing with the reader and his response to literary texts. As can be seen from the bibliography, a great deal has been written in the US since 1957 about both the reading process and the reader from a psychoanalytical point of view. This was the year when Simon 0. Lesser published his pioneering book Fiction and the Unconscious. Lesser's study exercised a marked influence on Norm:m N. Holland and David Bleich who have emerged as the major representatives of a theory of reading inspired by psychoanalysis. Those who are familiar with Bleich's work will perhaps wonder why I bracket him with Holland. Briefly, one reason is that his research practices bear the mark of a number of psychoanalytical assumptions about human nature. It has to be admitted, however, that his predominant concern with 'subjectivity' tends towards a philosophical rather than a psychoanalytical theory of the human mind. However, it is very interesting to see how both Holland and Bleich, each in his own way, arrive at concepts of the reader which are similar and comparable, at least if one views them from outside the discipline.