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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Readerly and writerly texts
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 09:08:29 

On Thu, 9 Dec 1999, Jeremy W. Crampton wrote:

> If we approach a text as a writerly text it is not possible or desirable to
> start identifying fixed meanings or metanarratives ("Wolfe just does track
> the gospels"). In a writerly text, the reader is in control. 

> ..efforts to contain a text are problematic..what is a work? is a work that
> authored? and when is an author accepted as such? a text is not unitary but
> can escape into notes, appendices, and commentaries (cf
> Sev. explaining this, or even our disagreement over Vol 5 as being part of
> BoTNS or not).

It seems to me that the reader is always in control.  I can read, or not
read.  I can read every other chapter.  I can use a text to illustrate a
discussion of Freud.  I can read every event as having an allegorical
meaning.  I can even read with the goal of trying to understand what the
author meant to say.

The text, like anything else in life, may cause me to have unexpected
thoughts or emotions, but what I do with those is up to me.

Lit-Crit types talk like some ways of reading are more "valid" than
others, when what they really mean is "I like to read this way."

How we read Wolfe depends on how we want to read Wolfe.  Some of us on
this list are interested in Wolfe's intentions as a part of reading his
books.  Others are want to read the text without reference to Wolfe's
biography or alleged intent.  Some are interested in reading his works as
Christian allegory.  Some are not interested in allegorical
interpretations.   Some like to use imagination to fill in perceived gaps
in the narratives (what we've sometimes called "fan fiction"), others
prefer a more strict approach, reading with Occam's Razor in one hand.

I suspect many of us enjoy reading and discussions using more than one of
these approaches, although some may prefer sticking to one approach at a

We can argue about which of these approaches is best, but like most
aesthetic arguments the discussion would be mostly descriptive ("I like x
because it contains y and z, which I like") if it didn't descend into
name-calling ("Pearl Jam Rocks!" "Pearl Jam is stupid!").


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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