Introduction: Against Assimilation

Sabine I Gölz

Abstract


This special issue of Konturen calls for renewed attention to the study of reading, long neglected in literary studies. It calls for a re-conceptualization of our interactions with writing, texts, and literary language—for a radical reorientation of what we read for. As we wake up to our difference from the text, we rediscover possibilities that we have habitually overlooked. Some central assumptions emerge: Writing is an apparatus that harnesses its readers – us. We may think that we use it, but the reverse is just as true: it uses us. Especially important are figurative, rhetorical, and mostly subliminal dimensions by which literary language interpellates us, lines us up according our identifications, and lures us into mimesis, into mechanically conforming to the constellations it prefigures. Gendered signals are central to this, because they elicit particularly mechanical and predictable responses. Writing promotes its own interests—not ours. But writing is also fundamentally incomplete. It needs the living to reproduce itself. This realization is profoundly liberating: if we read ourselves as not in the text, as the very site of the incompletion of writing, we abandon the failed project of representation and wake up in (and to) the Spielraum (space for play, leeway), in and as the ground of language. Here and now, we can begin to work towards re-configuring the language we have inherited.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5399/uo/konturen.10.0.4508

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