What is Reader Response? What good does it do? Reader Response is a literary criticism technique that helps the reader better understand the text and the world around them. Reader Response critics can sum up their analysis by answering this question: What is the reading process, and what happens during it (Bressler, Literary Criticism An Introduction To theory and Practice, page 62)?.
John Donne, born 1572, died 1631, wrote poems for an elite society of friends, and circulated them only in manuscript form. Many of his works were not published until after his death. Donne's poems primarily dealt with love. His piece "The Flea," written in 1633, depicts a typical renaissance love poem (Kelly, The Seagull Reader Poems, page 50). Fleas were a staple of conventional renaissance love poetry. Medical professionals believed that conception resulted in the mixing of a man and woman's blood during intercourse (Kelly, The Seagull Reader Poems, page 54). Of course fleas feed on blood, making the creature much more erotic to the time period. The speaker in poem is in love with a woman he is going to marry. He is most envious of the flea, for it's ability to roam his love's body at free will. "Yet this enjoys before it woo, And pampered swells with one blood made of two, And this, alas, is more than we would do (lines 7-9). " The flea does not have to marry the woman to enjoy her physical attributes. It is free to roam about her as it pleases, as the speaker is not. The speaker wishes he were, therefore is envious of the flea. He must wait until his wedding night to enjoy such pleasures. In line 3, the speaker informs us that he has been bitten by the flea as well. The line "pampered swells with one blood made of two" is a direct reference to the mixing of blood aspect of sexual intercourse. It is now believed by the speaker and the woman that a child brews from their mixed blood.