This summer I have been indulging in pleasure reading. I am enjoying texts I have read before by Moi, Eaggleton, Rushdie and Woolf. I have managed five books since the middle of May. That’s very rewarding. Pleasure reading this summer has been very beneficial too. I can see how my reading skills have changed and better determine what reading will best serve my goals and interests.
I am deciding what to read next term; which fiction and what theory will be the best steps toward my personal interests and goals. For me, reading theory and fiction simultaneously is really fun and helpful. In ‘The Function of Criticism’ Eaggleton discusses the relationship between society and literary criticism from the eighteenth century until today. Moi’s ‘Textual Sexual Politics’ explores a fascinating, complicated vein of theory succinctly and in an accessible way. They site each other in their texts. Both texts are very helpful while reading Explorations 2. Reading theory along with the fiction helps me to appreciate two things; how discourse and its relationship to society changes over time and the Russian Formalists’ distinction between fabula, the story or subject of the narrative, and sujet, the manner of telling the story.
For me, how a story is told is extremely interesting and one of the reasons I chose to pursue English studies. I also want to develop a greater understanding of topics like allegory and the relationship between society and discourse. For example to me Shakespeare is an interesting bridge between earlier writing and the ‘sons of Ben.’ The Shakespeare, Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and Restoration units are my choices for the new term. They encompass the starting point for story telling, society and discourse in modern times and the hey-day of allegory.
In ‘The End of Allegory’ Sayre Greenfield suggests that allegory is a reading choice. For me, allegory is like a bridge between fabula and sujet; how we choose to read is an important dynamic in the relationship between subject matter and how a story is told. I want to study allegory and how the way we read is shaped by social influences and individual reading skills.
In ‘The Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction’ Paul Salzman notes the magical realism of authors like Rushdie have inspired greater appreciation of Elizabethan prose fiction in modern readers. In my case it’s a circular experience; the texts are remarkable to read together. They have given me a much greater appreciation of story telling and the fantastic pleasure of how a story is told. Am I starting to sound like Roland Barthes?
Reading Roland Barthes last term taught me to be patient with my reading experience; to give special attention to every detail of how we read and how a story is told. I want to read Shakespeare, Literature of The Middle Ages and Renaissance and Restoration to engage with specific, subtle aspects of ‘sujet.’ When I next sit down to the prodigious storytelling of Woolf and Rushdie I’ll be better prepared to ‘swallow a whole world.’