Reception and translation

Elke BremsSara Ramos Pinto
Table of contents

Reception is a term that, since its introduction in literary studies in the 1960s, shifted the focus from the text and the author to the reader. The bottom line is that a text has no meaning without the contribution of the reader. In the conceptualisation of reception we can distinguish two main traditions: a European and an American one. One of the most influential scholars in the first was the German Hans-Robert Jauss who worked within the framework of the ‘Rezeptionsaesthetik’ (aesthetic of reception) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Jauss introduced the term ‘Erwartungshorizont’ (horizon of expectations) to designate the set of cultural norms, assumptions and criteria that shape the way in which readers understand and judge a literary work at a given time. The process by which the reader concretises the potential of the text into a specific meaning or sense is what Jauss calls reception. Jauss’ main goal was to find new ways to write literary history. He claimed that the evolution of the audience, not the historical period of the author, explains the history of a literary text. A second important scholar of this ‘Konstanzer Schule’ (Constance School) is Wolfgang Iser. He introduced the concept ‘Leerstelle’ (Textual Gaps). For Iser, texts provide only a schematic structure, leaving many things unexplained to the reader. Through the reading process, the reader fills in the gaps and realizes the meaning of the text in a subjective and imaginative way.

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Further essential reading

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