look at the medusa straight on.

and she's not deadly. she's beautiful and she's laughing. -- helene cixous

on the erotics of embodied reading.

that is the subject of the paper i’m in the process of writing today.  i’m fairly certain that no one who follows me on tumblr cares, but this is basically the thesis of my paper:

In this paper, I wish to articulate and examine a gendered scene of reading that is at once embodied, situated, affective, and erotic.  In so doing, I am aiming to problematize the notion that a gendered reading, or a “feminist” reading, must necessarily be a politicized reading.  Indeed, positioning the gendered act of reading as a method of consciously feminist resistance — a resistance that argues for the mastery of the resisting gendered reader over a given masculinist text — may result in the ironic re-inscription of the phallocratic order that explicitly feminist theories of reading and reception set out to dismantle, by ascribing the readerly position and the act of interpretation as the dominant terms in the act of reading.  In place of the “cognitive rather than affective” focus of many theories of reading (one that Jonathan Culler named in On Deconstruction in 1982 [39] and that has only recently been questioned in light of the corporeal turn in literary and cultural studies), I am seeking to re-center the role of bodies and feelings in gendering and materializing acts of reading.  Rather than positing a universal narrative of embodied, erotic reading, I find it necessary to emphasize the particularities of any such scene of reading; it is, in fact, within those particularities that gendered reading emerges.  To this effect, I will be (re)reading two essays written by Roland Barthes on the topic of reading and pleasure: “On Reading” and “The Pleasure of the Text.”   In these essays, Barthes articulates an account of the erotics of reading that, while not explicitly gendered, still gestures towards the possibilities of such a reading.  Using insights gleaned from the French feminist thinkers Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray, I intend to push the boundaries of Barthes’ work forward with regard to his conceptions of the reader-subject and jouissance (corporeal bliss), with a view towards articulating sexual difference.  At the center of my examination, however, is a close reading of another scene of reading found in Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary.  Rather than portraying the titular character as either a caricature or a “foolish reader” (see, e.g., Felski), I would like to reframe Emma Bovary’s adolescent reading experiences as a case study for deeply embodied, erotic, materializing reading.  Madame Bovary was forever affected by the texts she encountered long after she put down the romance novels; reading, for her, neither began nor ended with the act of interpretation.

  1. onegirlrhumba posted this
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