First Advisor

Michael F. Reardon

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History




Hans Robert Jauss, Reader-response criticism -- Germany, Criticism -- Germany -- History -- 20th century, Literature -- History and criticism



Physical Description

1 online resource (86, 3 p.)


Hans Robert Jauss is a professor of literary criticism and romance philology at the University of Constance in Germany. Jauss co-founded the University of Constance and the Constance group of literary studies. Hans Robert Jauss's version of reception theory was introduced in the late 1960s, a period of social, political, and intellectual instability in West Germany. Jauss's reception theory focused on the reader rather than the author or text. The original reception of a text was compared to a later reception, revealing different literary receptions and their evolution. Jauss's Rezeptionsgeschichte (history of reception) illustrated the evolution of the reception of texts and the evolving paradigms of literary criticism that they were a part of. However, Jauss's essays proved to be more of a provocation for change in literary criticism than the foundation for the next literary paradigm. The empirical studies discussed in this thesis reveal the.idealism of Jauss's theory by testing main ideas and concepts. The results show the inapplicability of Jauss's theory for practical purposes. The intent of this study is to illustrate the origins, development and impact of Jauss's version of reception theory. The interrelationship between the social environment, the institutional reforms at the University of Constance, and the methodology of reception theory are also discussed. The new social values in West Germany advocated individualism and questioned status quo institutions and their authority. This facilitated the establishment of the University of Constance, which served as the prototype for the democratization of German universities and the introduction of Jauss's reception theory. With the democratization of the university, old autonomous faculties were broken down into interdisciplinary subject areas. The Old Philology and New Philology department were made into the sciences of language and literature and ultimately introduced as the all-encompassing literaturwissenschaft. Five professors from the Slavic, English, German, Classics and Romance language departments gave up direction of these large departments to work together under the Constance reforms in an effort to form a new concept of literary studies. The result was the socalled theories of "reception" and "effect" which they continue to research.


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