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TSL 712 Literature in ESL

Efferent and Aesthetic Reading

Prepared by Sebastian Ramsay Anak Bahal Ahmad Zufrie bin Abd Rahman Khairul Anwar bin Roslan


Thus, according to Rosenblatt, reading and meaning-making? happens only in the readers mind; it does not take place on the page, on the screen, or in the text, but in the act of reading.


Rosenblatt uses the example of a medical report for efferent reading, yet for some readers, it may be impossible to push away emotions, remembered experiences, and thoughts of others, even as they read for the purposes of information gathering. One example of a text that can be read at either end and is entirely dependent on the state of mind and purpose of the reader, is a cookbook. Many cooking fans talk about reading cookbooks for the joy of experiencing the text and the pleasure of transaction with the text. Others use cookbooks purely as a guide to a recipe and read the recipe solely to gain the information needed to create the final product. Two readers may be reading the exact same texts, but find themselves on different ends of the continuum based on their stances as they approach the text, their purposes for reading the text, and their prior experiences.

Rosenblatt explains that while during efferent reading the readers focus is on the outcome or purpose of the reading, the reader who adopts the aesthetic attitude feels no compulsion other than to apprehend what goes on during this process, to concentrate on the complex structure of the experience that he is shaping and that become for him the poem, the story, the play symbolizing the text. In other words, for the aesthetic reader, the focus is on the experience alone.

Efferent reading

The term efferent (from the Latin efferre, to carry away) designates the kind of reading in which attention is centered predominantly on what is to be extracted and retained after the reading event. Efferent reading: reading to take away particular bits of information. Here, the reader is not interested in the rhythms of the language or the prose style but is focused on obtaining a piece of information. Rosenblatt states, the readers attention is primarily focused on what will remain as a residue after the reading the information to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem, the actions to be carried out..

Efferent Reading-contd.

An extreme example is the mother whose child has just swallowed poisonous liquid and who is frantically reading the label on the bottle to discover the antidote to be administered she wants to get through the reading as quickly as possible and to retain the information that will serve her practical purpose.

Efferent Reading-contd.

She goes on further to say that the primary concern of the reader in this type of reading is what he will carry away from the reading. The focus for readers having an efferent experience is outward, toward what can be taken away, not inward to their feelings and responses.

Aesthetic reading

In this kind of reading, the reader adopts an attitude of readiness to focus attention on what is being lived through during the reading event. Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work and oneself. Here, readers are engaged in the experience of reading, itself. Rosenblatt states, In aesthetic reading, the readers attention is centered directly on what he is living through during his relationship with that particular text.

Aesthetic reading contd.

What differentiates aesthetic from efferent reading is the difference in the readers focus of attention during the reading event. The concern is with the state of mind of the reader as they approach the text, and the reasons for which they are approaching the text, as well as their state of mind during the reading process. In differentiating aesthetic from efferent, Rosenblatt calls it a shift in the attention of the reader, aesthetic concentration differs from non-aesthetic contemplation by virtue of the shift of the direction of attention toward the qualitative lived-through experience.

Aesthetic reading contd.

In aesthetic reading, the focus of the reader is inward, on what happens during the actual reading event. Rosenblatt defines aesthetic reading in terms of the readers experience as the readers attention is centered directly on what he is living through during his relationship with that particular text. However, aesthetic reading is not free rein fantasy or lazy reading that does not engage the brain, it requires transaction, which involves effort and engagement on the part of the reader.

Aesthetic reading contd.

. . . only a reader in aesthetic transaction with the text can synthesize the parts into a whole or structure which is a work of art. The reader draws on his own reservoir or past life experience; he has notions of what to expect of a novel or poem or satire. But he has to use whatever he brings to the text and build out of his responses to the patterned verbal cues a unifying principle. The structure of the work of art corresponds ultimately to what he perceives as the relationships that he has woven among the various elements or parts of his lived-through experience. Instead of thinking of the structure of the work of art as something statically inherent in the text, we need to recognize the dynamic situation in which the reader, in the give-and-take with the text, senses or organizes a relationship among the various parts of his livedthrough experience.

The EfferentAesthetic Continuum

The Continuum The metaphorical nature of the term the stream of consciousness can be called on further to clarify the efferentaesthetic continuum. While defining efferent reading and aesthetic reading in opposition to one another, she notes that they are not mutually exclusive but can be found on either end of a continuum, a series of gradations between the nonaesthetic and the aesthetic extremes.

The EfferentAesthetic Continuum contd.

It is possible to read efferently and assume one has evoked a poem, or to read aesthetically and assume one is arriving at logical conclusions to an argument. Because of the importance of the reader, and all the experiences and knowledge that the reader brings to each reading experience, no two reading experiences can be the same, from reader to reader with the same text, or even the same reader rereading a text.

The EfferentAesthetic Continuum contd.

At the same time, different readers (or even the same reader at a different point in time) can approach the same text and have completely different reading experiences, as the same texts may be read efferently or aesthetically, again it all depends on the stance of that particular reader, in that particular point in time, as they approach that particular text.

The EfferentAesthetic Continuum contd.

Rosenblatt contends that the same reader may even view the same text through both an efferent and aesthetic focus, depending on the circumstances under which they are reading at the time. Although many readings may fall near the extremes, many others, perhaps most, may fall nearer the center of the continuum.


Most reading experiences are mainly one or the other, but because efferent reading can intrude into aesthetic experiences and aesthetic reading into efferent experiences, most reading experiences tended to be clustered closer to center than to either extreme.