Wolfgang Iser


Born in 1926, Iser is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Constance, West Germany. With his colleague Hans Robert Jauss, Iser is an exponent of 'reception-theory' whose roots are in German literary criticism. Briefly, the theory views the text as the site for production and proliferation of meaning and is sceptical about the objective text of formalist criticism.

Iser privileges the experience of reading literary texts as a uniquely consciousness-raising activity and stresses the centrality of consciousness in all investigations of meaning.

The study of phenomenology and the work of Husserl, Ingarden, Gadamer, and Poulet have influenced and contributed to the Iser's work.

Read Iser's The Act of Reading: a theory of aesthetic response for a fuller exposition of his theory.

Leap the gap

Where to begin? Anywhere. Take the leap. The 'gaps' or 'blanks' stimulate the meanings which would not otherwise come into existance. Choose a direction and begin. Wherever you go, seek the mix, the pulse, the cycle that you bring. Despite what you hear about the seduction of new things, about the seduction of new technology, it's memory and desire that compels us. And it is, as Iser says, "reading literature [that] gives us the chance to fomulate the unformulated".