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I was equally baffled by that article...

Wonderful response.

Jim H.

Massie's essay sounds to me like he cadged the distinction from Barthes's S/Z, but failed to understand what that wily critic was really up to:

"Our evaluation can linked only to a practice, and this practice is that of writing. On the one hand, there is what it is possible to write, and on the other, what it is no longer possible to write; what is within the practice of the writer and what has left it: which texts would I consent to write (to re-write), to desire, to put forth as a force in this world of mine? What evaluation finds is precisely this value: what can be written (rewritten) today: the writerly. Why is the writerly our value? Because the goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text. Our literature is characterized by the pitiless divorce which the literary institution maintains between the producer of the text and its user, between its owner and its customer, between its author and its reader. This reader is thereby plunged into a kind of idleness—he is intransitive; he is, in short, serious: instead of functioning himself, instead of gaining access to the magic of the signifier, to the pleasure of writing, he is left with no more than the poor freedom either to accept or reject the text: reading is nothing more that a referendum. Opposite the writerly text, then is its countervalue, its negative, reactive value: what can be read, but not written: the readerly. We call any readerly text a classic text."

Barthes's exercise is to show that even the so-called readerly text, the closed text, is open to multiple readings and (as you take pains to point out) is hardly closed at all to "the winds of the world." Clearly, you've done your Barthes and Massie hasn't.

[btw: It's funny. I just posted a portion of the above quote over at http://wisdomofthewest.blogspot.com in pulling together some philosophical literary critical quotes I was trying to digest in quite another context. Great minds, etc.]

Jim H.

Edward Williams

Do authors think about these things at all?


It seems like he is attempting to distinguish between a topical novel (like Tree of Smoke dealing with Vietnam; Falling Man with 9/11) from one that deals with 'domestic' issues alone (Ray Carver's What We Talk About...). The argument is, as you say, pretty dumb though.

Dan Green

"he is attempting to distinguish between a topical novel (like Tree of Smoke dealing with Vietnam; Falling Man with 9/11) from one that deals with 'domestic' issues alone (Ray Carver's What We Talk About...)"

I don't think that's it. "Domestic" issues are also "issues" impinging on fiction from "the world." He's really trying to separate "open fiction"--which in his scheme would include Carver's--from modernist/postmodernist/experiemental fiction.

schopenhauer's bloody knuckles

@edward green: "define author." heh, bad joke that had to be made. the standard author trying to get published, no (they dont have the ability); the more ponderous, possible (*might* have the ability, doubtful if they have the scholarly/critical concern to incorporate the thoughts into their actual writing).

Now, for different reasons: If you mean someone like Will, no; someone like Schiller, yes.

this type of discourse is generally due to the piece of literary work providing an "amulet against the ennui." for a whole lot of this style of writing, check out Derrida's Of Grammatology, Dissemination (has a great theory of the preface for about the first 50-70 pages) or Margins. His "style" will make this look simple in the superlative however, and unless you like very abstract philosophy, go grab some Keats instead =)

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