Tuesday, July 6, 2010

close reading

When I was a Fellow here at the National Humanities Center, of course my bookshelves were greedily crammed with books that I'd ordered through their library loan system - books that I chewed my way through in order to find out that the five-page proposal that I'd arrived on, and with, was not exactly viable as a book. Indeed, not even remotely viable ... though out of that experience of contextual reading emerged, at last, the schema that is slowly turning into Flash! - albeit a new proposal that itself periodically undergoes a makeover.

It's very good for me, by contrast, spending all week on one text, close reading it, thinking about The Text on The Page (with a few historical and literary dives outside into other directions), adding in one or two general, theoretical pieces of reading (Andrew Miller on ethics, reading, and the cult of self-perfection, and Suzanne Keen on empathy and the novel are tomorrow's accompaniment). And then Luke Menand and I get to hold forth and answer questions about The State of the Profession, a topic about which he knows a great deal and I feel as though I just have some recycled bits of gloom from the Chronicle to offer - but I'm going to make a determined effort to read Frank Donoghue's The Last Professors tonight, in case it sparks off a less Jude-like frame of mind. I doubt it, from my early incursions into it. At least I can link the week's fictional text to today's overall climate of educational pessimism, somehow.

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