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Towards a Poetics of Reading

Autor MACSINIUC, Cornelia
Colectie Albion Books
Domeniu Anglistica
Traducere de PILLAT, Monica
Aparut 12/2002
Nr. pagini 320
Format 1/16 (54x84)
ISBN/ISSN 973-611-222-5
Titlu epuizat

Din cuprins:
- Acknoweledgements
- Structuralism and Deconstruction
- Unreadability as a Principle of Poststructuralist Poetics
- Ideology and the Politics of Reading
- Reading and the Solutions of Feminism

Cornelia Macsiniuc’s study on Anglo-American theories of reading offers a first rate guide to understanding the act of reading in the light of major themes of poststructuralist theory, themes which she confronts with the conceptual “invariables” of many other approaches. Richly documented and with a clarity of discourse that recommends it not only to academic specialists, but to all those interested in poetics, literary theory and literary criticism, this book succeeds in masterfully demonstrating how theory and critical practice may be harmonised and may prove an incentive to one another. Bringing together and working across various theoretical strands, belonging to semiotics, structuralism, phenomenological criticism, deconstruction, poststructuralist hermeneutics, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, the author weaves a subtle theoretical web, which she does not leave untested by practical analysis. In this respect, the present book is a model of theoretical research and of applied interpretation, its main concern being the way in which poststructuralism and postmodernism have contributed to re-shaping our notion of reading experience or “literary competence.”This exploration of the possibilities of articulating a poststructuralist poetics of reading starts with a contrastive discussion of structuralism and deconstruction as Models of Critical-Philosophical Attitude toward Reading. Jonathan Culler, Gerard Genette, Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes, Robert Scholes, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, J.Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman are the most outstanding theorists invoked in this discussion, in which the author ponders on the consequences that the “Death of God” and its poststructuralist analogues have on the understanding of the act of reading, of the relation between poetics and interpretation and, ultimately, of the status of literary criticism.Structuralist theories optimistically place emphasis on the rationally “objective” capacity of the reader/critic to decipher a literary work in terms of predictability, by reducing it to the logic of language mechanisms. Deconstruction, on the other hand, rejects this view of reading as an “ascetic practice” (Vlad Godzich) and questions the structuralist claim that the reader may possess/master the text by training his/her analytical skills, opposing a sort of creative scepticism to structuralist totalitarian optimism, allowing for uncertainty and welcoming relativity in the reception process.Deconstruction offers an abysmal vision of textuality, which turns reading into the uncertain quest for the trace of an absent God. The extremes of deconstructive scepticism and relativity are embodied in the idea of the “impossibility of reading”, as suggested in the discussion of J.Hillis Miller’s essay “Ariadne’s Thread.” Deconstruction thrives, however, on the positive valorisation of negativity (an attitude whose philosophical foundation is to be sought in Nietzsche and Heidegger), and, in the same spirit, Cornelia Macsiniuc seizes on this idea to expand her defense of deconstruction as a mode of reading in her next section, Unreadability as a Principle of Poststructuralist Poetics.Three exemplary analyses of the relation between the “readable” and the “unreadable” constitute the support for Cornelia Macsiniuc’s theoretical exploration in this chapter: Barbara Johnson’s essay on Melville’s “Billy Budd,” J. Hillis Miller’s approach to Henry James’ “Figure in the Carpet” and Soshana Felman’s masterful reading of James’ The Turn of the Screw. From their examination, the principle of unreadability emerges variously as a token of critical scepticism, as the ethical imperative of resisting closure in interpretation or as an essential feature of literary language.In spite of its negative resonance, this principle reorganises critical perception in such a way as to allow the shift from the text as certainty to the text as possibility. No longer in quest for the “transcendental signified” of the text – a mere metaphysical illusion for deconstruction -, reading “on the basis of the unreadable” becomes a celebration of the play of meaning that the “liberated” signifiers engender, and involves “experiencing surfaces as unfathomable” – the deconstructive echo of Susan Sontag’s “erotics” of art.Conjoining the poststructuralist view of textuality functioning like the unconscious and the Lacanian interpretation of the unconscious through Saussure and Roman Jakobson, Cornelia Macsiniuc points out that a deconstructive approach will ultimately produce an effect of critical sublime. The reading of the text as “sublime” object will reveal what Derrida calls “the structural necessity of the abyss” and will deconstruct the very notion of “reading experience,” which relies, among other things, on the illusion of the “reading subject”’s infallible rationality.

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