Monday, February 9, 2009

re: they shake the mountains when they dance (sort of)

Although this isn't completely a reply to Kevin's post, I did want to expand on his comments about reading with (or without) any outside knowledge or preconceptions. I read in Literary Theory something about how it is impossible for a person to separate his or her own feelings and experiences from what he or she is reading (sorry I can't give a page number or a quote right now, I accidentally left my book at work), but Nabokov states the exact opposite in "Good Readers and Good Writers". So, what now? Do I decide whose words are wiser, or do I apply a different "rule" based on what I'm reading? Like Kevin said, maybe we aren't doing e.e. cummings justice if we don't understand some background about why he might write something like "the boys i mean", but all the same, I came up with my own interpretations without relating it to WWI at all. If had, however, thought about linking the Great War to this poem, would that really be breaking Nabokov's "rule"? He says not to let our own experiences and feelings interfere with our reading, but WWI is not an experience of mine; e.e. cummings, though, did have experiences and feelings about WWI if he was in it. It seems impossible for the reader to always keep inferences and outside knowledge out of literature, and it just seems stupid if that knowledge is about the life of the author or the times the work refers to.
I guess I'm still just as confused as ever. I can't help but feel that maybe Nabokov was just irritated about the assumptions people were making about his own works, and so he lashed out by saying that any good reader never makes assumptions anyway. Or maybe some authors don't want their pieces understood by the masses. Who knows? Not me. Even the "experts" (Eagleton, Nabokov) don't agree. Good thing we have a few more months of class to try to figure it out...

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