It has been an odd sort of week, all things considered. Nothing much of any great moment has happened in the day to day running of things, but things in the head, ideas and responses to external media… whoosh! There’s a veritable cornucopia of stuff all tangled together with knotted ends sticking out here and there that I’m finding it difficult to make sense of. Things like the absurdity of some of Sebastian Faulks’ pronunciations On Fiction, his idea – espoused on BBC Breakfast news on Wednesday morning – that the end of literary criticism, in its many forms and flavours – he mentioned Feminist, Marxist and Formalist approaches – was a thing to be applauded in favour of a return to what is essentially the Reader Response approach. This to me is a curious assertion; in the first place, the target audience at which he aims, is principally a non-academic one. It is true that most critical approaches are not a necessary adjunct to everyday life, or to reading for pleasure, but to dismiss them completely is to me shortsightedly reductionist. Reading deeper into the texts, the literary discourses, such critical approaches enrich the reading process. In the second place, he makes a Formalist call for the exclusion of the author, and the socio-historical context, when reading. I would argue that if the reader is supposed to enjoy a text as a text in its own right, ignoring its historical context should be a hindrance. It is a fallacious argument because how can anyone make a reasoned valuation of any text if they can only apply a modern reading of modern cultural and moral mores? Follow that line of reasoning far enough and you end up with an edited/censored edition of Huckleberry Finn, for example. Surely, if Literature is supposed to enable us to make sense of who and where we are, we ought to have some understanding of who and where we have been? Context IS relevent, as an underlying understanding of any text, without necessarily being the end in its own right.
I could bore you by ranting on a little more about some of the other things he said – don’t get me started on his summation of the ‘female experience’ as evidenced in Tess of the Durbervilles, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and The Golden Notebook; for heaven’s sake I adore Lawrence, but his tenderly brutal misogyny is not something I would include as vital to the historical experience of being a woman – and there, you see, he contradicts himself implicitly… No. Enough. My head is spinning and he makes me cross. Others with cooler heads than mine have refuted him elsewhere.
What else is tangled in my head? The political situation here, the turmoil in Egypt, the seeming hint that Poland is sending to Belorussia to rise up and overthrow their electorally dubious leader. The New York writer Fran Lebowitz, who is fearless and frank and always honest, with an acerbic wit that warms or withers. I like her. What else? The tulips that I bought today, flame coloured and golden-edged. The miserably poxy cold that I’m enduring. And the WIP… a chapter completed last night, over 1300 words written in the last couple of days – I’m beginning to pick up speed again. And in spite of the nonsense in my head (see above) this has kept me unreasoningly cheerful, despite the time of year.
I still haven’t had any lychees yet, though. I really should do something about that….