A stage in the history of reading underlies the origins of Wolfgang Iser's method. His distinctive theory of reading is adumbrated in the writings of the period of his original specialty, the eighteenth century. In The Implied Reader Iser takes his theoretical hints and directions from the narrators of Fielding and Sterne. Through an examination of the chapters on eighteenth-century novels in The Implied Reader (and of Laurence Sterne: Tristram Shandy) as well as the theoretical position of The Act of Reading, this essay argues that by utilizing a range of eighteenth-century writers who insist upon the role of the reader's imagination in a process that leads to different meanings for each, Iser proposes that readers should read as they demonstrably did read during the eighteenth century rather than as they read in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The importance of Wolfgang Iser's early work in the history of Anglo-German aesthetics is that he recovered, brought to consciousness, theorized, and extended the implications of a mode of reading largely bypassed during the last several centuries.

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