Horizon of Expectation

Hans Robert Jauss, a German philosopher, while discussing the theory of the aesthetics of reception, describes the “horizon of expectation” in which a work is produced and received. This horizon encompasses the social norms and historical situation of a given time and place, and also situates the work in relation to others so that the readers’ “horizon of experience” (what they may have already read) can also be included (Jauss 23). Reader response is dependent upon the extent to which the work does or does not conform to these norms and expectations (Art Criticism). Works that reach acclaim in the time of their first public release often duplicate the readers’ horizon of expectation, because they reflect the ideas and norms of society of that time and tend not to shock or challenge belief structures. Other works (such as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary), though unpopular in their own day, gain importance and renown as reader perspectives change and the horizon of expectation shifts (Jauss 16-17).


"art criticism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 7 Jan. 2008 <http://search.eb.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/eb/article-236401>.
Jauss, Hans Robert. “Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory.” Trans. Elizabeth Benzinger New Literary History 2.1 (1970): 7-37.