This chapter contrasts a model for literary interpretation that is ‘readerly’ in being restrained and backward-looking, with one that is ‘writerly’ in being creative and forward-looking. The first pays homage to the efforts of the work's creator, and the second shows respect for the meanings the work presents to the critic's contemporary audience. Despite appearances to the contrary, the first theory is no less capable than the second of accounting for actual critical practice. Adjudicating between them involves considering whether the creation and appreciation of literature answers primarily to an interest in works alone or to works as the product of human authors. The second option is more plausible and can be consistent with the widely held view that literary works admit of multiple interpretations.
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