Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Claire Bracken

Second Advisor

Jennifer Mitchell


The Turn of the Screw, Henry James, Reader-Response, Psychoanalysis, Freud


I began thinking about my thesis by wondering why we read, why we read the books we read, why we read a book the way we do, and how we read leads to different interpretations and opinions of a book. In my thesis, I have focused on figuring out how we can determine who we are based on the interpretations we make about a text. I have determined that one’s interpretation is based on their baggage which includes their memories, expectations, and imagination. A reader, either consciously or unconsciously, brings baggage to every text they read in order to come to their own interpretation. In my encouragement of exploring one’s own interpretation of a text, my thesis involves its own reader by referring to them as ‘you’ throughout to reinforce the idea that reader involvement is crucial to understanding a text. I urge my reader to, “before you get into this thesis, do some things for yourself. Get comfortable. Get uncomfortable. Choose or switch your chair depending on this preference. You know yourself. Get rid of possible distractions.” I implore my reader to think about their own interpretation of a text by using Henry James’s novella, The Turn of the Screw. The novella works perfectly for this study as it invites different interpretations because of its ambiguity. I have created and explored three possible readers to the novella: the Surface Reader, the Freudian Reader, and the Savior Reader. The Freudian Reader is a reader who looks for the deeper meaning which almost always refers to sexual desire. The Savior Reader is a hopeful reader who desires a happy ending and above all for the hero to succeed. The Surface Reader is a reader who would rather not become too invested by trying not to tie themselves to the text with their baggage. In my explanation of the readers, I not only explore their relationship with the novella, but I also give examples of who they might be as people. This includes where they would be reading the novella, what they would be listening to, who they would be with, and what they would be doing before, during, and after their reading experience. This grounds not only my thesis but also allows the reader to imagine themself as a reader of The Turn of the Screw. I explore how each reacts to different sections of the novella. Discussing the readers and how they interpret different sections of the novella shows the power of interpretation as well as why the novella has been debated over by many literary theorists and critics.



Rights Statement

In Copyright