Reading the Romance, Building the Bestseller: A Q-Technique Study of Reader Response to The Bridges of Madison County
Operant Subjectivity , Volume 17 - Issue 3/4 p. 17- 39
Based on a reader response case study of Robert Waller's astonishingly popular romance novel, the research reported here demonstrates not only that readers' subjective experience of the same text can and do vary dramatically but also how it is that such understandings, in their naturalistic condition, are amenable to public inspection and reliable calibration as operant factors. In the course of the case study, the "convergently selective" character of the appeal of Waller's all-time bestselling romance is addressed in light of the four factors our analysis uncovers as alternative constructions of the novel and its meaning. The four factors are seen as comprising the subjective foundations of a "conversational structure," energized by diverse constituent sentiments and their interaction, in a manner that is generally playful and pleasurable, albeit in different ways, to parties in the conversation. Implications for enhanced understanding of the mass appeal of Waller's work, and for reinvigorating reader response research more broadly, are discussed.