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Louise Rosenblatt, at 100; a scholar of reading, author

WASHINGTON -- Louise M. Rosenblatt, an influential scholar of reading and the teaching of literature and professor emeritus of English education at New York University, died Feb.8 of congestive heart failure at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. She was 100.

A longtime resident of Princeton, N.J., she had lived in Arlington, Va., for the past two years with her son, Jonathan Ratner.

Dr. Rosenblatt maintained that the act of reading was a dynamic ''transaction" between the reader and the text. She argued that the meaning of any text lay not in the work itself but in the reader's interaction with it, whether it was a play by Shakespeare or a novel by Toni Morrison.

''The text is merely an object of paper and ink until some reader responds to the marks on the page as verbal symbols," she wrote in her 1978 book, ''The Reader, the Text and the Poem." Her transactional theory continues to influence language arts teaching.

Dr. Rosenblatt's approach was at odds with the school of New Criticism that prevailed when she began her academic career in the 1920s. John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, and other New Critics insisted that the meaning of a poem or other literary expression was embedded in the text; reading was an act of uncovering that objective truth.

Her approach was also at odds with pedagogical theories focusing on back-to-basics techniques that, in Dr. Rosenblatt's view, ignored the experience of personal engagement and involvement central to the reading experience.

At the same time, she was not a deconstructionist. She did not believe that a reader, whether high school student or highly trained literary critic, could spiral untethered into the ether of individual interpretation. She acknowledged that some readings of a poem or a story were more defensible than others.

Louise M. Rosenblatt was born in Atlantic City to first-generation European Jewish immigrants of modest means. At Barnard College, where she received her undergraduate degree in 1925, she wore clothes her father had sewn for her.

After graduation, she thought about going to Samoa with one of her best friends at Barnard, anthropologist Margaret Mead, but decided instead to go to France. In Paris, she met writers Andre Gidé, Gertrude Stein and Robert Penn Warren.

In 1926, she received the certitude d'etudes Français from France's University of Grenoble. She received a doctorate in comparative literature from the Sorbonne in 1931. At age 27, she published her first book, in French, on the ''art for art's sake" movement in England.

In the 1930s she began teaching literature to college students and developing her theories on reading. Her seminal book on reading theory was ''Literature as Exploration," published in 1938 and reissued for several decades thereafter. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, she also wrote ''Making Meaning With Texts: Selected Essays" (2005).

During World War II, she worked for the Office of War Information, analyzing information from Nazi-occupied France.

She was an instructor at Barnard from 1927 to 1938, assistant professor at Brooklyn College from 1938 to 1948 and a professor of English education at New York University's School of Education (now the Steinhardt School of Education) from 1948 until her retirement in 1972, when she received NYU's Great Teacher Award.

She was elected to the International Reading Association Hall of Fame in 1992 and received the John Dewey Society Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.

In November, she spoke to a standing-room-only session of a convention of English teachers meeting in Indianapolis. Kent Williamson, executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English, noted that ''at 100 years of age, she had acquired rock-star status. Why? Because her ideas and beliefs were just as fresh, as liberating and as relevant to the challenges that teachers face today as they had been so many years ago."

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