Anyone with a counter-example? I'm open to persuasion. Am I morally better than someone who likes snuff films? Yes. But am I morally better than someone who likes horror films? War movies? Holiday kitch?
Now, what I meant to get to was Mark's wish list. Sayeth the Preacher:
I think we need a more nuanced, more “thick” description of the experience & the pleasures of anti-absorptive texts than just a foregrounding of language or “speed bumps” in the way of immersion. Those things indeed happen, but a great deal else – varying widely from text to text – happens as well. Josh gestures towards this – & I image he’s doing a lot more than gesturing in his dissertation – but before we can talk intelligently about anti-absorptional writings as being somehow more valuable than something else, we need some sort of encyclopedic tracing of the pleasures of bafflement, allusion both external and internal, dictional shifts, fragmentation, indeterminacy, polysemy, and so forth. (This has probably been written, but hey, I’ve been in a cave writing a biography for last 7 years.)Has there been such work done? I don't know of it, although I, too, have been "loopless" for a while. If you read this, please tell me, or Mark, where to look! Or, if you'd like to contribute to such an encyclopedic enterprise (you Mark, you Josh, you reading, whoever you are), let me know: we could start a new, collaborative blog of commentary on, what, a single text, teasing out its pleasures, and then move on to another, and another, and another. Let's use this medium, make this happen, and see what develops, shall we?
Back to Mark:
There are fundamental differences between mass market immersive fiction and “difficult” poetry. Yes, we can bring to bear on the former some of the tools useful for the latter, and to interesting effect. But that’s a matter I think of more general literary-critical methodology, rather than things specifically crafted for the sort of poetry Josh is talking about. There are skill sets and there are skill sets, & some of them overlap, & some of them don’t. I may read a romance novel thru the lens of Northrop Frye & Patricia Parker on the classic romance, thru Mulveyan notions of the gaze, & thru various post-Freudian theorizations of the “other” – all ways of resisting “immersion” – but how do those skill sets help me with Susan Howe’s “Bibliography of the King’s Book”?You're more or less right about this--and, by the way, thanks for the tips (Parker, Mulvey, etc.)! My point, though, was not that the skill sets are identitical, but that they are overlapping and commensurate: both involve active, "creative" reading practices that pursue pleasure not into the book (getting "lost in a good book" by identifying with characters, plot, the dream-world, etc.) but out of the book, by making connections and analogies, searching for patterns, treating the text as a puzzle, and so on. Some of those practices may be at play when I read any text, albeit unconsciously; certain kinds of texts reward them, although they don't require them; others require them in order for us to find any pleasure at all in the reading process. Yes?
I don’t think the pleasure Josh & I (& you too, EMS) take in an anti-absorptive poem really bears much resemblance, aside from the fact that it’s work rewarded – which applies just as well to a crossword puzzle, building a sukkah, or washing the car – to what undergrads in an intro to poetry class feel in working thru the “‘immersive’ first person lyric.”The first part of this may be true (the lack of resemblance), but I'd object to the idea that every sort of work is the same as every other. A crossword puzzle makes certain demands on me that washing the car does not, and vice-versa. (There's a physical pleasure in the warmth of the day, the stretch of muscles, the shine of the car, with the latter, but none of the mental challenge that the puzzle provides.) Building a sukkah offers a little of both, plus the superadded cultural pleasure of affirming or enacting a Jewish identity: a pleasure sukkah-building shares with reading Norman Finkelstein's Track and teaching my children Jewish jokes, although the mental activities involved are quite different).
Some of the same elements are there (pleasure in the sound of language, pleasure in “decoding” what seems initially unclear, etc.), but there are other faculties being drawn upon, other muscles exercised.Which are what? Not being snarky there: seriously, I'd love a list, with examples! Mark, Josh, anyone? It's time to get down to cases, methinks.