Culler and Literary Competence
A Liturature Research Paper on Jonathan Culler and Literary Competence holds that the process of interpreting the meaning of a literary text is one that is learned over time, through one's exposure to and cumulative experience with a variety of texts. The act of approaching a poem or a novel assumes that a reader has some experience with the form and understands its basic conventions and properties. By acknowledging that there are some readings that are more correct than others in the degree to which they adhere to conventions of literature, Culler provides a linguistic basis for the practices and beliefs of literary critics such as the formalists and the New Critics. However, unlike critics such as Brooks, Wimsatt, and Beardsley, Culler's approach is more realistic, as it recognizes that the determination of which interpretation is correct is actually a result of a kind of tacit agreement between the author, the readers, and the literary establishment.
Literary meaning is not intrinsic. In contrast, the New Critics and formalists seem to believe that this fixed, correct meaning is something inherent in the structure of the poem itself which can be unearthed like an archaeological artifact, but only via the process of a thorough structural interpretation.