[LMB] OT: Jane Eyre

James Burbidge jamesandmary.burbidge at sympatico.ca
25 Nov 2003 18:41:27 -0500

On Mon, 2003-11-24 at 22:49, MegJ wrote:
> Corrina:
> > I understand what he's saying but his distinction between popular
> > (pleasure-reading) and academic literature is a phantom one to me.
> Especially since James says he reads critically for pleasure.  If that's the
> case, then what kind of dividing line can we have without passing judgment
> on other people's reading tastes?  Or is the point *to* pass judgment on
> other people's reading tastes?  In which case that's leaving an even worse
> taste in my mouth than the professor who did his best to ruin Shakespeare
> for me.
> It's self-indulgent to read to enjoy the story and characters, but it's not
> self-indulgent to read in order to do literary criticism, even if you're
> reading critically for pleasure?

I don't distinguish between two types of literature.  I think that
literature is a single field, which can be divided arbitrarily depending
on how one likes by some given set of criteria for the moment (e.g. by
genre, by theme, by any number of other factors which cut across each
other.  In particular I don't distinguish between popular literature and
academic litaerature: I distinguish between narrower and broader works
along a continuum, some supporting more complexity of reading than
others.  (There are other types of "simple" response -- e.g. Defoe's
"forged" autobiographical works, which invite a literal/historical
rather than a literary response.)

Secondly, "self-indulgent" applies to the work via author, not via the
reader in the case of _Jane Eyre_ -- a reader may or may not be
self-indulgent in reading the book.

On a not entirely unrelated note, I am sad to see that Hugh Kenner has
died at 80.  I took a seminar by him on Pound in graduate school and I
knew him through other connections (ultimately going back to his having
graduated from the same high school as myself, thirty-eight years
before).  I last saw him last year; he'd only recently retired from his
final position but was still active in the academic conference and
writing world.  He was the last living link I knew to the modernists --
he had known both Pound and Eliot, as well as being an authority on them
and on James Joyce.