A reader-response approach to Susan Sontag's Death Kit

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1988
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Stead, Arnold
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English

The Department of English seeks to provide all university students with the skills of effective communication and critical thinking, as well as imparting knowledge of literature, creative writing, linguistics, speech and technical communication to students within and outside of the department.

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The Department of English and Speech was formed in 1939 from the merger of the Department of English and the Department of Public Speaking. In 1971 its name changed to the Department of English.

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1939-present

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  • Department of English and Speech (1939-1971)

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I did not come to reader-response criticism because I understood it to be of importance to my critical methodology; it was, instead, suggested to me, and as I seemed to be in need of a label to lend legitimacy and focus to my reading of Death Kit, I latched on to it. As an approach to reading, it offers enough open-endedness to allow me to roam its continuum picking and choosing as I please. I have used Jane Tompkins~ Reader-Response Criticism From Formalism to Post-Structuralism, a collection of essays by reader-based critics, as a catalyst for a self-examination of my reading of Death Kit. After reading these essays and writing about Sontag~s novels, I see my reading of those books as heavily influenced by New Criticism. This is not surprising, for it had a firm hold in the academy when I was first introduced to literary study on a university level in the 1960s. Prior to my reading of the Tompkins~ anthology, I~d had a graduate seminar in the work of Stanley Cavell whose critical approach is certainly reader-based. I had also been impressed, and I think influenced, by Jean-Paul Sartre~s essay "Why Write?", which is concerned with the writer~s relationship to the reader, from the writer~s point of view more than the critic-reader~s. In the pages which follow, I attempt to set forth my version of the reader/writer relationship as instanced chiefly in my own reading of Susan Sontag~s Death Kit.

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Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 1988