Title

PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM AND LITERARY INTERPRETATION: A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO STUDYING THE INTERACTION OF TEXTS AND READERS (THEORY, JAMES JOYCE, READER-RESPONSE)

Date of Completion

January 1984

Keywords

Literature, Modern

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

The theory of "psychological realism," influenced by American pragmatism and phenomenology, has evolved from James Gibson's ecological psychology of perception. Psychological realism analyzes the interaction between persons and environments, each being defined only in terms of the other. For the literary critic, psychological realism can provide an epistemological basis for resolving a number of important issues raised by modern reader-oriented theories of interpretation.^ A psychological-realist theory of reading can account for the indeterminacy of reader response and can also specify the constraints on interpretations imposed by the text. For psychological realism, meaning inheres in the interaction of the reader and the text and is not located in one of them alone. Psychological realism allows for multiple interpretations of a text while positing the existence of stable textual structures.^ Part One of this dissertation summarizes the tenets of psychological realism advanced by James Gibson and applied to language by Robert Verbrugge and introduces a vocabulary that enables one to distinguish the roles of the reader, the text, and social and historical forces while accounting for their interpenetration in the reading process.^ Part Two expands Verbrugge's adaptations of Gibson and develops a psychological-realist theory of reading that addresses literary concerns about such issues as how determinate and indeterminate structures in literary texts provide abstract instructions for readers, how the intentional quality of a text influences a reader's perception of it, and how styles of reading differ from naive to experienced readers. An analysis of the controversy over the ending of Huckleberry Finn, suggests how psychological realism might discriminate among interpretations.^ Part Three compares the theories of Stanley Fish, Jonathan Culler, and Wolfgang Iser with psychological realism, focusing on the differences among their views of readers, texts, and historical influences on interpretation.^ Part Four provides an example of psychological-realist methodology by analyzing the thirty-one interpolations of the "Wandering Rocks" episode of James Joyce's Ulysses. Interpolations are regarded as intersubjectively verifiable textual structures that provide specific abstract instructions for readers to connect discontinuous textual segments, but the determination of meaning is seen to depend on readers' reading strategies and cognitive styles. ^