chapter  7
The Nature of Listening in Reading Poetry: A Conversation
Pages 22

Irn treating reading as a kind of silent listening to oneself reading over [Ryle: The Concept of Mind). Sane kind of

I fall back in this way on something like a Johnsonian consensus - it happens so often. In this way I'm laying aside theoretical problems of solipsism, and so on, that we know so well. I have X number of students and I find that all but two or three of them have the same difficulties of adjusting their frame of reading to symbolist poetry. I assume from this, in people who are otherwise so various, that they are responding to stimuli which are bringing their differences back to some mean which suggests that the promptings from the text are in some way single, coherent. Their responses are much less variable than the variance amongst their personalities. Some kind of circularity is thus in evidence. -- There might be another explanation. -- Just one more thing. The problem you mentioned before also arises here: How do we find the techniques that they can usefully adopt? -- The narrowness of the range of 'erroneous' modes that people adopt might not have anything to do with the primacy

The problem with poetry might cane fran the daninance of novels. --If I can retranslate you in my own terms - I think you are saying and I think you are in your own - forgive me for putting words into your mouth - --I'd rather saneone else did it--- - if you're saying that the reason people have such a similar range of responses, is because there are certain conventions that have been inp:>sed upon them' markedly similar difficulties. That they've been led to e:>q:ect (by teaching, by background, by environment, by educational context) sanething of poetry which brings their personalities down to a mean which is artificial, then I agree with you. It's a very strong possibility. Its one that has to be confronted. Its one that Marxist and nee-Marxist writers fran Benjamin on have been very interested in. Its virtually irrefutable. (Foucault, Barthes, all of them, have been interested in this.)

A Conversation

words the reader is aware that he has to reconstruct, he has to 'write' as he goes along through the text, in order to make sense of it. For Barthes this is the dividing line between the classical and modernist. (I'm really simplifying these.) -- So Sterne and Trollope and Shakespeare(?) and Beckett would be writerly. -- Shakespeare probably classical. Sterne the great precursor of the writerly because he built so many antidetermining devices into his text. Theres no way you can get around him and put him in tidy order. -- So Thomas Mann has got to be writerly as well. -- I don't know. He's an interesting case. Some of the Marxist writers, Lukacs for example, regard him as classical.