Pelagia Horgan’s article for The New Yorker traces the relationship between reading and affect, from the eighteenth century “sentimental novel” to contemporary tearjerkers. Contemporary questions of whether young adult novels are valuable, Horgan argues, hark back to a larger debate about “why books matter to us, and what reading is ‘for,’ ” and even “who we want to be.”
Read Hogan’s article in full here.
Image: “A Woman Reading” by Vincent van Gogh.
“When we want to co-create, we read. We want to participate; and we want ownership. We would rather have sketches than verisimilitude — because the sketches, at least, are ours.”
Peter Mendelsund, associate art director at Alfred A. Knopf, explores what we envision (and what we do not) when reading literature. The answer, it turns out, is “not much” — at least nothing close to what we see in the physical world — and yet we have a strong connection to these sketched-out images because they are, in part, our own creative handiwork. Blending narrative theory and personal reflection, Mendelsund offers some bold answers to the question of how vision and literature align; and by juxtaposing classic texts (from Chaucer to Calvino) with striking illustrations and simple questions, he challenges readers to reflect on their own experiences of seeing while reading.
Visit Mendelsund’s blog to learn more about this book and other projects here.
All images by Peter Mendelsund
Instructor: Aranye Fradenburg
Course: English 197, Fall 2014
Until the post-World War II period, the interdependence of human psychology with our environments was, for the most part, unthought. But the advent of nuclear power forced scientists and humanists alike to think more deliberately about this interdependence. The publication of groundbreaking work on ecology and psychology in the 1970’s, during the First Wave of the contemporary environmental movement, led to what is now a rich interdisciplinary body of work on the subject. This course will introduce you to that body of work, drawing on the work of philosophers (“ecosophy”), scientific psychologists, and psychoanalysts (“eco-psychoanalysis”) that now asks us, not just to understand better our “place” in the environment, but also to understand better the “place” of the environment within our selves.
Literature, of course, fictional or otherwise, has always understood the evocative power of these emplacements, from Homer’s fascination with the structure of the city of Troy to the lyrics of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Let’s Go to Pluto.” So we will be reading selections from Isenberg’s collection State of the Arts: California Writers Talk About Their Work; Young’s collection The Literature of California: Native American Beginnings to 1945; Cortez, On the Imperial Highway: New and Selected Poems; Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles; and John McPhee, Assembling California.
Critical/analytical inspirations will include selections from Geoffrey Bateman’s Steps To An Ecology of Mind; Dodd’s Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos; and Rust, Vital Signs: Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis.
Image: Gustav Klimt, “Fish Blood”