Near the end, Tompkins argues that close-reading illuminates the inner lives of others as well as our own, similar to the way therapists can help their patients understand themselves. This is certainly true in some cases, but what are we to make of the countless male authors, many of them incredibly well read, who appear to have little understanding of the hurt they cause, and even less understanding of their own emotional landscapes? This is fertile terrain that Tompkins leaves largely unexplored, and perhaps rightly so (there’s enough material there for at least several other books), but the conundrum does call into question the received wisdom that reading itself is a moral act, and presents a missed opportunity for a deeper look at how we read, as well as the problem of what’s to be done with great works of literature written by awful men.Well, not just men, I am sure.
Wednesday, September 04, 2019
… Larger and More Befuddling Questions: On Jane Tompkins’s “Reading Through the Night” - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)