'Response and Responsibility: Theories of the Implied Reader in Children's Literature Criticism'
Cocks, N. (2004) 'Response and Responsibility: Theories of the Implied Reader in Children's Literature Criticism'. In: Children's Literature: New Approaches. Palgrave, London, pp. 93-118.
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Reader Response Theory remains popular within Children's Literature Criticism. It seems to offer a sensible resolution to the question of whether meaning derives from text or reader. Through a close reading of one example of this criticism, I suggest that its dualisms are constantly collapsing into appeals to singular authority. at various stages the text or the reader is wholly responsible for meaning. I further suggest that the criticism bypasses the question of interpretation through claiming knowledge of a child reader whose opinions and reactions can be unproblematically accessed. We do not have to worry about reading texts, because we can, apparently, know the child's response to them with certainty. Anything other than this claim to certainty is taken to be a failure of responsibility, a wallowing in the subjective, obscure and perverse. My intention is to reinstate reading as the responsibility of criticism.