There is a lot of love around here lately, I know! This is partly because Roland Barthes (who, guess what, I love) wrote an essay called Why I Love Emile Benveniste (and another called One Always Fails In Speaking Of What One Loves), so I have always had a soft spot for the ‘Why I Love’ title.
It’s also partly because I just got funding from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at the University of Wollongong for a pilot research project called Amateur Knowledges, together with my amazing colleagues Leigh Dale and Louise D’Arcens. The idea is to investigate the relationship between scholarly/professionalized and non-scholarly/affective responses to texts, and to pasts. It revisits some of the work that I last did in relation to the Desiring the Text conference; as part of the project I’m going to be relaunching the Society of the Friends of the Text website to foster dialogue between scholars, fans, and other amateur readers (bookbloggers, Goodreaders, etc).
So this book, you can imagine (Lynch’s Loving Literature: A Cultural History), just went to the top of my to-read pile. Also, if you are interested in this kind of thing, two very cool books to read are:
Charles Altieri’s The Particulars of Rapture, which is about ‘an aesthetic of the affects’. His argument is that part of what we find valuable in reading is the opportunity to try out a different set of affective responses from our own, and he writes about how books, poems, and pictures make it possible for us to inhabit another position. We are, almost literally, ‘moved’ by works of art, and ‘that being-moved positions [our] consciousness to make certain kinds of observations and investments’ (26). Then, he asks,
What states, roles, identifications, and social bonds become possible by virtue of our efforts to dwell fully within these dispositions of energies and the modes of self-reflection they sustain? … How are we changed by what we feel, and by our adapting different ways of engaging what we feel? (5)
and also Lynne Pearce’s criminally underread Feminism and the Politics of Reading (Amazon link, sorry) which uses Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse to talk about the ways we read, in all kinds of ways, including this one, which really reminds me of the relationship fans have with ongoing canon (walking the painful line between anticipation/unticipation as we wait to see whether our show has jumped the shark this season/this episode…):
[Reading] is, indeed (as it is for Barthes’s lover), a frankly desperate scenario, in which the reader must wait to discover not only if his or her love/desire is reciprocated, but also if her huge emotional investment in the other [the text] (based on such sudden, first impressions!) is to be proved worthy. As many texts fail in this expectation as do lovers… (133)
So over the next while, expect to see a few more accounts of loving texts, and also loving readings (it’s occurred to me that one of the reasons I’m a reception theorist is that I really like hearing about other people’s readings of texts, even – or especially – when they don’t mesh with my own).
Next up: Why I Love Jenny Colgan.