The Act of Reading John Rechy: Transnational Intertexts and Readers
Reader response criticism and reception theory approach texts through their readers by examining the historical (and theoretical) interpretations of real and implied readers. In Life in Search of Readers: Reading (in) Chicano/a Literature (2003), Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez analyzes the implied readers of Chicano/a literature, the historical reception of key texts, and how readers are portrayed in Chicano/a literature through metaliterary discourse. My project uses this framework as a starting point to reexamine the little-recognized significance of U.S. novelist John Rechy, documenting how his work spans literary traditions and readerships that are seldom considered in relation to each other: U.S. and international LGBTQ literature, Chicana/o literature, and Anglo-American literature. Organized in three chapters, this study situates Rechy's work within diverse literary traditions and examines how the act of reading (in) Rechy's work is mediated by ethnicity, class, nationality, gender and sexual orientation. By analyzing one author as a case study, my study delves deeply into his work while also studying his connections to transnational texts and readerships, by examining the intertextual references within his texts as well as references to his work by other authors.
My study contributes to reader response and reception studies by demonstrating the benefits of using a reader response theory approach in an analysis of texts with multiple audiences, because it opens texts to multiple interpretations. Finally, the results of my analysis of the responses of everyday readers to Rechy's work suggest that for widely read texts, this is an effective way to qualitatively measure the social impact of a text, while my documentation of intertextual references to Rechy's work combined with archival research illustrates the literary impact of an author's work. These methods are particularly well suited for texts that have mixed critical reviews, or that have been understudied, and they provide a historically situated and more egalitarian framework for measuring the social and literary value and impact of a text.