Claire’s Reader Response Analysis of “Radioactive,” by Imagine Dragons

The song “Radioactive” is a very popular song over the last year, and most people have seen the music video. People that I have spoken to about the music video had interesting reactions to it, so it seemed like a rich source for analysis by reader-response criticism. I’ll be focusing mainly on transactional reader-response and affective stylistics in my analysis of the music video.

Watch the first video (lyrics only) first, or at least read through the lyrics, to get a feel of the song and it’s message, and then watch the music video and go ahead and feel confused. I did too. A link to the lyrics is here.



Transactional reader-response, according to Tyson, focuses on how a reader and a text interact, and the significance or meaning of the text is the poem, which is found in the transaction that occurs between the two. In order for a meaningful transaction to occur, the text must be read in aesthetic mode, with attention to emotional subtleties, and not focused solely on the facts. Affective stylistics centers on the idea that a text is an event that occurs as it is read, and it analyzes the cognitive processes that occur to the reader as they read.

My analysis will incorporate these two perspectives, focusing on the cognitive processes and subsequent emotional transactions that I experienced while watching the music video, and then evaluate what the text accomplished overall by scrutinizing the “poem” I experienced and analyzing my response to that interpretation.

The music video starts off with a shot of a girl walking down a wood path. There is a crow cawing, and the leaves are blowing across the ground. The sky is gray, and there is no music. The natural drama of this scene excited me and made me a little nervous. It reminded me of the eerie, twilit pathway in Jane Eyre, right before she meets Rochester. There’s a feeling of imminent action. The shot is also shown from far away at ground level, which resists my idea of my normal position in my world, subverting my feeling of normalcy, solidity, and self. As the music begins to play, scenes of the girl with shocking blue eyes, carrying a covered case, are interspersed with shots of the band members in a jail, and eventually some scenes of a group of men betting on something. I felt disappointed at the direction the video was taking. The camera repeatedly paused for close-ups on the girl’s eyes; this combined with the theatrical scenes of the men felt a little overboard.  I had interpreted the song to be very meaningful, and (at this point) I wanted to take the video very seriously as well. But it seemed like the music video was taking itself too seriously – predictable and overly dramatic.

Then comes the unexpected.

The rest of the music video is about a puppet monster that brutally fights and kills other puppets in a ring surrounded by angry, betting men. The monster is undefeated, until the girl brings in her teddy bear to fight in the ring. The teddy bear uses its power-punch and laser-vision to destroy the monster and several cronies as well. The girl takes the key from the head honcho and frees the band from jail. Hooray! The head honcho is then presumably killed by the angry horde of puppets.

When I first saw the music video, I was honestly incredibly uncomfortable with it. The transition from what I thought was an artsy, classy, albeit predictably melodramatic music video to a startlingly violent puppet massacre really took me by surprise and put me on edge. My viewing of the rest of the movie was strongly colored by my disapproval of the sudden, uncontrolled direction change. I’ve never been a fan of puppets (the Muppets so frightened me as a child that I hated every one of them, sans lovable Kermit, of course) so I wasn’t exactly thrilled with that plot choice. Scenes such as the beheading of a puppet, a puppet in a noose, and a horde of puppets surrounding the bad guy as he screams in terror to presumably maul him to death, I found disturbing, out of context of the song, and confusing. However, I found myself (a little against my will) smiling at the (darkly) uplifting plot of the music video. Good (fluffy pink teddy bear) triumphs over evil (puppet monster that mutilates other puppets). It was unexpected, and maybe a little refreshing. It felt good to see the plot sort itself out, and I had to admit that it seemed to fit with the lyrics of the song, which reference a revolution and reform- a new age or awakening (“I raise my flags … it’s a revolution I suppose” and “I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones … welcome to the New Age”).

As I looked back to analyze my response, I began to appreciate more what the music video had accomplished. The way the video had made me feel when it subverted all of my norms expectations and spun around in a completely different and unexpectedly positive direction (uncomfortable, confused, disapproving, even a little scared) mirrored the subject of the song itself: a revolution. The video had shaken me up, as revolution usually does, but had given an uplifting, positive message of new life, reform, transformation, and renewal in the end.

Applied Theory Post- Reader Response Criticism- The Ren Remix

Buckle Up! It’s going to be a bumpy ride. (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban reference)

First I’d like to start this journey with a little bit of traveling music.


Focus on this line specifically:

“If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?”

I thought that it could apply to today’s lesson. A couple things you should know about this song.

1. I like it.

2. It was the first song that came on shuffle as I was leaving class today.

3. It struck me, and when I really listened to the lyrics I thought “I have to subject these nice people to this song”.

4. You should be playing this song continuously throughout this bridge.

5. Though luck kid, this is my bridge and I’m taking over punk!

Lets Go! (Mario Voice)

Reader Response Criticism is a favorite of high school students and undergrads alike because it is about the reader, you, and what the reader gets from the text. The author’s intended meaning comes after the reader’s connection with the text. But to quote Pocahontas, “You never step i the same river twice”. Not every reading is the same. A person can read a text and a month later reread the same text and get something completely different.

So I’m about to get a little “Inception-like” with this bridge.

Texts do have intended audiences, and guess what guys?! You are my intended audience, and seeing as you wonderful gardenias are my intended audience, I will shape this bridge to fit you.(But please don’t destroy my bridge like Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) As my intended audience I will use terms and reference that will relate to today’s readings and Harry Potter.

Reader response criticism is very popular among youths because there is the common misconception that you can’t be wrong when using this type of theory. Tyson says you can dig too deep or not deep enough, which is true, and not true. Who is to say what you get from it? You! You get what you want to get from it, and multiple factors can go into this. Your background or current situations can affect how you translate the text. Let’s talk about  Harry Potter and use it to understand this type of criticism.

When I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was seven, I thought the four houses were four actual, physical houses. When I reread the book a few years later I got a lot more out of it. After rereading the entire series a few summers ago, I got so many more underlying themes and prejudices after I had been trained to look for them. Take the wizarding government; it’s very 1984, think about it. They know every spell you do and haul you right in for a trial if you are underage. They also like to keep their citizens oblivious and blind, like when the Dark Lord returns. They live in an imperfect society built on purity of blood and political standing. I would have never gotten that at seven.

There can even be a secret audience or perhaps a secret meaning the audience will get only after they have reached a certain stage or plane. Harry Potter might not actually have an intended audience because it is a completely different story when you are seven or twenty-seven, you get different things from it a different times, but what you get is what you get and that is what is important. You are the reader and it is all about you my flowers.

Okay guys, enough fun, let’s get serious. When you read Harry Potter, or even watched it (or some other book/movie series that is less awesome), did you connect with a house or character and become biased? I know I did. I hated Snape until he did and it was revealed he was truly amazing man. Even as I was reading the series, my opinion changed, and what I get out of it was different with every chapter and that was okay.

More Questions!

1. Who was your favorite character and why?

2. What house would you be in? Or other magical school?

Okay have a great weekend and don’t forget to do your homework, brush your teeth, and clean behind your ears.

Well that’s all folks  to quote Porky Pig.

Now enjoy this video of a perfect specimen.




Amanda’s Reader-Response Analysis of “The Rainbow Fish”

I found reader-response theory to be one of the most interesting yet perplexing literary criticisms. The fact that a reader’s own, individual interpretation could have more credibility than authorial intention or the actual text on the page seemed almost sinful. However, this theory allows some flexibility in how one understands literature and texts. Taking this even further, Tyson states in her chapter that one’s analysis of the text is not the only aspect of reader-response criticism. After responding to a specific text, it is then the reader’s job to analyze their response. This analysis and re-analysis is then influenced by one’s interpretive community. Readers in the same interpretive community will approach literature in much the same way, using similar strategies and contexts to bring meaning to written works. For my applied theory post, I chose to analyze how two different interpretive communities bring meaning to the children’s book The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.

Below is a video of Ernst Borgnine reading the story. (It’s a little cheesy, but cute.)


I analyzed The Rainbow Fish based on two different interpretive communities. The first community consists of young children, most likely between the ages of five and nine or ten. I will refer to this as the “child’s interpretation”. The second community consists of young adults, ranging from the ages of young teenagers to early twenties. I will refer to this as the “young adult interpretation”. Each group’s interpretation is vastly different because they each bring in unique strategies, experiences, and emotions to give meaning to the text.

Young children experience their world through an innocent lens. They are naïve to many pains and tragedies of life understood by adults, so when bringing meaning to certain texts they do not have many past experiences to relate that text to. As a child, when my parents read The Rainbow Fish to me I never perceived it as a deeply emotional novel. I could relate to the sadness of the rainbow fish or the jealousy of the other fish, but I did not see the story as having any strong implications towards my own life. In the simplest of forms, the short story taught me to share with others and be friendly and kind to all people. However, I probably would not have pulled that meaning out on my own without my parents to guide me through my understanding of the story. So in many ways, the “child’s interpretation” that I am referring to is greatly influenced by older, more experience individuals.

In contrast with the “child’s interpretation” is the “young adult” interpretation. Reading the story again, with many more years of experience since my childhood, I had a much different interpretation and a greater meaning. Events I experienced in middle school and high school suddenly came to mind as I reread the story of the rainbow fish. I was reminded of my own feelings of not fitting in and not being accepted by certain people or groups in my school. Drawing on the psychoanalytic branch of reader-response criticism, my interpretation of The Rainbow Fish became a means of coping with my own uncomfortable emotions. In a way, rereading the story was like a personal therapy session to release and understand my suppressed memories. On top of all this, the story was a great reminder to be kind to others, accepting of others, and generous with my gifts and talents. One thematic aspect that I did not pick up on as a child though was the rainbow fish’s happiness after sharing his sparkling scales with the other fish. This is proof of the stronger implications one can pick up on depending on past experience and context. A child would have great difficulty understanding that sharing and kindness can create an inward happiness, but as a young adult it is easy to understand because one has experienced this kind of event before.

In conclusion, each person or community of people brings a predisposed opinion of literature and their own strategies in creating meaning in literature. A child approaches The Rainbow Fish seeking a fun story that makes them smile and feel happy, while a young adult reads the story in context of their past or current experiences and then interprets based on how it relates to their individual context. Reader-response criticism allows both of these communities to hold a credible interpretation of the text and gives The Rainbow Fish a much greater influence.

Reader-Response and the Bible

As I read Tyson’s example from Critical Theory Today using Judas in the Reader-Response chapter, I couldn’t help but consider how Reader-Response criticism, in many ways, defined Modern Christianity.

*As a sidenote, I would include other religions if I were familiar with them; however, I am not well-read on the sacred texts of most other religions–in fact, I am not especially well-read on the Bible, either. Regardless, I feel like the Bible is a great example of different interpretations of the same text.*

In the Judas example, Tyson focuses on how the Scripture ultimately gives “no indication” on whether or not Judas hanged himself.  Since a text (in the lens of affective stylistics) is an “event that occurs in time,” and “the meaning of a text consists of our experience of what the text does as we read it,” Tyson claims that the text in question (found on p. 175; “That Judas… overthrow it.”) instills in the reader a sense of uncertainty, and is primarily about the “experience of reading” rather than Judas or Scripture.

This got me thinking about the way in which the Bible has been interpreted by many readers over the course of centuries.  Tyson references three possible expectations that a sentence from the passage on p. 175 could yield, all containing differences in interpretation.  These different interpretations, I think, have become manifest in the vast branches extending from from the tree of Christianity.  These denominational offshoots that have sprouted up from the same text is probably one of the best examples around of Reader-Response criticism.  I also found it funny how “uncertainty” was the moral of this particular story, because uncertainty is such a cornerstone of faith; in the words of Pi Patel, “Doubt is useful–it keeps faith a living thing.”


Anyways, thoughts?  In what ways do you all think Reader-Response criticism has affected Christianity (or other religions) to this day?  And, on that note, are there any alternative, potentially interesting theories that we could apply to the Bible? (psychoanalytic, Marxist, New, etc…) Why?  Definitely potential for a New Criticism reading of the Bible/relating that to fundamentalism…