Louise Rosenblatt Essay

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Louise Rosenblatt holds a unique position in the fields of education and literary studies. This legendary authority engaged in teaching teachers of literature and in researching the teaching of literature. In 1992, her peers elected her to membership in the Reading Hall of Fame.

Her 1938 publication Literature as Exploration is still in print and is one of the most widely cited works of its type. In this and dozens of other publications such as The Reader, the Text, the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work (1978), she outlines a theory of reading as a transactional process. According to her, the reader brings to the text his or her past experience and present personality. This revolutionary idea—based in an anthropological and social perspective—challenged the authority of the author and emphasized the importance of the reader and his or her experience in the interpretation of a text.

Rosenblatt began her career teaching courses in introductory literature and composition. It was out of this context that she developed her particular approach to reading that proposed that efferent and aesthetic purposes for reading influence the meaning and comprehension of a text. She wanted to be remembered for “teaching for democracy.”

Rosenblatt attended Barnard College, the women’s college at Columbia University in New York City. Her roommate in college was Margaret Mead, the world-renowned anthropologist. She completed her doctoral studies in comparative literature at the Sorbonne (University of Paris) in 1931. She taught at Barnard College (from 1927 to 1938), Brooklyn College (from 1938 to 1948), and New York University’s School of Education (from 1948 to 1972). Upon retirement, she taught doctoral candidates at Rutgers University, Michigan State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Miami.


  1. Rosenblatt, L. (1938). Literature as exploration. New York: Appleton-Century.
  2. Rosenblatt, L. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press.

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