Making Readers: what is literary/literariness / Readings of a short story
For readings not in course book: http://www.ualberta.ca/~dmiall/MakingReaders/Readings/
1. Literariness. What makes literature literary? -- vs. ordinary discourse.(incorporating ideas from from students' notes)
- Special types of language
- Foregrounding (stylistic aspects), e.g., symbols, metaphors, irony
- Other formal techniques, e.g., narrative
- Foreshadowing; free indirect discourse
- Purposive selection of details -- become symbolic
- Coherence, boundedness
- Rules of genre
- Writing beyond the fact, layers of meaning (aesthetic vs. fact convention)
- Open to interpretation, ambiguous (polyvalence vs. monovalence convention)
- See world through perspective of a character, intimacy with
- Unavailability of fictional world, non-verifiable; yet reader has real emotions?
- Relation of reader to (fictional) narrator, author
- Innovative, evokes emotional response
- Reader inhabits different world, "being there" (transport)
C. Challenge to reader's world view
- World has moral meaning; raises questions of reader identity
- Feelings placed in a critical relationship to each other
- Work holds philosophical or social depth; more than entertainment
- Demanding of reader
- Understandable across cultures/generations/languages
- Capturing significant non-fictional meaning in fiction
- Expresses issues, ideals (indirectly), expands the reader's mind
- Insight into another culture, period
-- note bias to fiction in this list.
- What is considered literary in one period may not be so considered later
- Oral literature: now lost, not transmitted in writing?
- Impact of Internet, other media technologies
- "people can find deeper meaning in any book, because they project their own life experience onto what they are reading"
- Foregrounding: see opening sections of this essay by Miall & Kuiken: http://www.ualberta.ca/~dmiall/reading/foregrd.htm
- Aesthetic, polyvalence conventions: Siegfried J. Schmidt, e.g., Foundations for the Empirical Study of Literature (1982)
- transport: engagement in the world of a story; see Melanie Green paper
Are any of these features distinctive and exclusive to literature? or is literature characterized by a certain set of these features, none of which is defining in itself? -- see Wittgenstein on family resemblance (3rd para. in http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/blueandbrown/themes.html)
>> why does this matter?
-- 1. what features (if any) help you account for your own interests as a reader?
-- 2. what features lie behind our assumptions about what literary reading is now, how unique (or not) it may be, given other media (from newspapers to romance novels, hypertexts to video games)
-- 3. when looking at readers in history, what features apply to them; what features might be missing from our list? (reading was different then? -- cf. Darnton, "First Steps")
-- 4. how do such features help account for the reader's motivation to read (for literary reading), whether now or in history?
2. Story responses
Analysis of readers' responses to "The Trout." Example below is from a study of readers of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour."
Analysis and recording of data (Chopin readers 1 to 4)
Reader Para Constituent (type: instance)
1 8 Character: reader misled over age
4 3 Character: speculates on difference of Mrs. Mallard
4 3 Plot: speculates on conditions of Mallardís death
4 3 Plot: reader anticipates (climax)
3 11 Reader emotion: surprise
3 11 Character emotion: surprise
3 11 Plot: reader anticipates (fear)
3 11 Reader emotion: fear for character
2 21 Self: awareness of potential feeling (death of partner)
2 21 Reader emotion: anger at character
2 21 Reader emotion: shift to feeling sorry for character
2 21 Reader emotion: wishes Mr. Mallard dead
Place data in a Word table, if possible, with 3 columns and rows corresponding to number of constituents; email to David.Miall@Ualberta.Ca
return to Making Readers
Document prepared Sept 9 2006