Abstracts

Angus Connell Brown, ‘Deep Description’

It is impossible to imagine the modern university English department without close reading. For the better part of a century close reading has grounded literary criticism in the university, structuring employment, examinations, teaching, and research. As the function of critique comes under sustained scrutiny, critical theorists are turning their attention in earnest to the question of method and the future of literary studies. In doing so, scholars such as Heather Love, Sharon Marcus, Franco Moretti, and Matthew Jockers are rehearsing a much older debate about reading: a reading debate that secured the place of literary criticism at the university. In order to understand what has changed within literary studies over the past twenty years, this paper will turn to the interwar exchanges that established the place of close reading within the university. By reconsidering the history of close reading not as a history of thought or even as a history of method but as a literary history in its own right, our critical and institutional circumstances might become more legible and more open to sustained inquiry and exploration. Ultimately, this paper will argue that the most urgent work in critical theory needs to address the history of the humanities as well as its future.

Angus Connell Brown is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. He completed his D. Phil at the University of Oxford in 2015 and is currently at work on a monograph on close reading. His new research project explores the intersections of affect and materiality in contemporary book culture.

Sarah Cooper, ‘The impact of haptics on the consumption of journalistic content’

How does the science of touch affect the way in which we consume newspapers and magazines? This paper explores the research relating to haptics and media consumption, paying particular attention to the way in which print publications offer a different reading experience to online publications – and what bearing this has for the future of journalistic content. This paper is based on the research conducted over the past two years on a PhD of the same name. It explores how haptics impacts upon our experiences as journalistic-content consumers, making comparisons between the consumption of online and printed journalistic content with direct relation to haptics. For instance, do consumers spend more time with printed journalistic content than with digital content? Can we identify more ritualistic habits when consuming printed journalistic content than digital content – and if so, what reasons could there be behind this? Potential outcomes of the study relate to the integration of haptics into digital content, as well as the identification of haptic-related qualities that are proving to be the lifeblood of the printed content – as demonstrated in a small-scale experiment, where students were observed engaging with the haptics of magazines while being ‘blind’ to the brand.

Sarah Cooper is a course leader, BSc(Hons) Photographic Journalism / BSc(Hons) Digital Journalism, School of CCTE, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK.

Christian Coppa, ‘Scriptural Reading, Beyond (& Before) Critique’

Is the future for a post-critical reading an irreligious one? Despite its recent ‘turns’ to religion, literary criticism would, on the whole, seem to remain a secular enterprise, and recent interrogations of the limits of critique seem perfectly happy to leave intact its secular aspirations and constitution. It is no secret that religious thought and practice has often come under fire by practitioners and theoreticians of critical reading alike: religion nests the pernicious hierarchies, binaries, meta-narratives and onto-theologies to which a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ must be marshalled to dismantle. What is less often noted, aside from the theological and religious presuppositions or historical preconditions of secular humanist/post-humanist thought (or the critical strain running through certain varieties of religious language and politics), is the sheer generic breadth of scriptural reading practices: within the Christian tradition, we find a range from scriptural commentaries and devotional meditational practices (such as Lectio Divina), to liturgical lectionaries and homilies which enact and interpret the readings within, and for, a living community. These practices are corporate, and traditional, and reiterative. Such modes of (re-)reading the scriptures—the corporate reception of which texts attests to their plurivocity (a postmodern coinage with a pre-modern lineage, as medieval exegesis famously developed and adhered to the fourfold sense of scripture)—are not merely didactic but therapeutic and doxological in nature; that is, such practices lead the soul to health (salus, salvation) by route of close, habituated attention to the object of reading which, in turn, moulds the reader into postures of prayer and praise. Herein, perhaps, lies their potential as resources for re-considering the contours of a para-critical literary engagement. I wonder, what might a ‘praise-style’ (to borrow from the Italian stilnovisti) of literary criticism look like? In this paper, I want to shed light on the reading practices of the late-antique bishop and theologian St. Augustine of Hippo, by attending to his extraordinary commentary on the Psalms, his Ennarationes in Psalmos. I want to investigate what potential such a practice might have to offer a literary engagement that, without lapsing into confessional apologetics or uncritical determinations, might take seriously the curative, corporate, and celebrative potential of the encounter with the object of reading.

I am a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge; my research focuses on the interplay between theology and theatre, with a particular focus on Shakespearean drama.

Katherine Da Cunha Lewin, ‘Critical women: female genius, genre and cultural criticism in the work of Chris Kraus, Rachel Kushner, and Siri Hustvedt’

In the work of Chris Kraus, Rachel Kushner, and Siri Hustvedt we find writing that is multiple, genre-dissolving, and ‘transdisciplinary’ as Hustvedt terms it. Their work is undertaken at the intersections between the personal and the private, between fiction and cultural criticism, between art history and narrative.  Each writer, in different ways, has made an assertion about why this is so: Hustvedt explores a desire to be seen, Kraus names a desire to be heard, and Kushner suggests her own version of discovery and progress, her very own map of the world. These writers demonstrate a new way of writing contemporary fiction that broadens the boundaries of genre, the possibilities of fiction, and rethinks authority and ownership of narrative voice. By grounding their fiction in their own genius, Kraus, Kushner and Hustvedt rethink the notion of the public intellectual, embedding their fictional worlds within their knowledge of philosophy, art and literature.  By challenging a notion of postmodern masculine individualism, found in the work of writers like Johnathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace in which the reader marvels at the author’s mastery of form and intellectual labour, I propose that these writers, in their sharing of knowledge, instead invite a different kind of reading experience. By embarking upon a mode of composition I would identify as Kristeva’s ‘reading-writing,’ the necessary intertextuality of writing, each writer lays out intellectual pathways that are complex but collaborative, a reading experience in which the reader is included rather than excluded.  For these writers, the novel can and should contain multiple forms of writing, allowing them to cultivate a creative ambiguity whilst also questioning the role of the contemporary public intellectual.

Katherine Da Cunha Lewin is a PhD student at the University of Sussex. Her research seeks to read the work of DeLillo and Coetzee together as a way of drawing attention to their shared investment in a topographical imagination. She has presented papers at Goldsmiths, Aberystwyth, Sussex, Brighton, at the 2016 BAAS/IAAS conference, and at the Inaugural Conference for the Samuel Beckett society in Phoenix, Arizona. She organized a conference entitled ‘Don DeLillo: The State of Fiction’ that took place at the University of Sussex in 2015. She has taught at the University of Sussex, and written courses for the Brilliant Club, and the IF Project. She is currently editing a collection of essays on DeLillo for Bloomsbury’s Contemporary Critical Perspectives series, with Kiron Ward (University of Sussex). She is also a freelance writer and reviewer, with her work appearing at Review 31 and Broadway Baby.

Aimee Gasston, ‘Hand in Glove: Reading Accessories in Elizabeth Bowen’s Short Stories’

‘Had I not been a writer I should probably have struck out in designing and making belts, jewellery, handbags, […] my aim being that these should catch people’s fancy, create a little fashion of their own’.

– Letter from Elizabeth Bowen to Graham Greene (1948)

In an article published by Vogue in 1958, entitled ‘How To Be Yourself: But Not Eccentric’, Bowen wrote of what she called the ‘language of the accessories’.  In this paper, I will argue that this idiom is one she appropriates in her own fiction to model her own reading preferences. In ‘The Truth in Painting’ (1978), after Kant, Derrida theorised in terms of ergon and parergon, positing the work of art as ‘ergon’ and its frame, or accompanying accessories as ‘parergon’. This paper posits that Bowen’s short fiction should be conceived of in terms of a deliberate and persistent emphasis on the parergal, accentuating the supplement to displace and destabilise central positioning of truth or meaning.

Looking specifically at hats and gloves, this paper will explore the ways that Bowen not only pays attention to the off-kilter and peripheral but also encourages modes of eccentric reading. This type of reading is highly creative, with the reader accessorising the main body of the text, employing circular logic and privileging detail which resists forensic deciphering yet may yield philosophical resonance. Showing how Bowen establishes the peripheral as a site of fecund communication which disrupts conventional reading practices and gives voice to the marginal, I will explore how she encourages readers to look towards the parergal before the ergal, conceiving of eccentricity as a positive and transformative force.

Aimee Gasston is a Birkbeck-Wellcome Trust ISSF Research Fellow, working on a project about Bowen and literary stammering. Her doctoral thesis, submitted in April 2017, is about reading and objects in the short fiction of Bowen, Mansfield and Woolf. She has published articles on literature and cannibalism, phenomenology and snacks and was winner of the fourth Katherine Mansfield Essay Prize.

Thomas Houlton, ‘TROPOGRAPHIES OF READING, OR, THE THRESHOLD OF REMEMBERING HOW MANY WOLVES’

Too often humanities students, particularly those in visual or literature departments, are taught that in order to read a text ‘well’ we must in some way penetrate its surface, unlock hidden symbolisms, use all our skills to dig down to what is buried, what lies hidden. We are looking for a topography, a mapping or coordinates of sign and countersign, symbol and cosymbol. But what happens when our reading, our mapping, ‘is interrupted by an encounter with the unmappable’ (J. Hillis Miller, Topographies, p.7)? What then happens to reading, and, indeed to writing, if we begin to see writing as a tomb that itself is forever activating the unmappable, the inaccessible, the crypt, known-unknown?

This paper sets out to explore the possibilities afforded through a willingness to stumble, to be interrupted in our reading: to read from a place of porosity rather than puncture, of incompleteness rather than mastery. This paper will examine Freud’s ‘A History of Infantile Neurosis’ alongside J. Hillis Miller’s writing on topography/tropography and Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok’s The Wolf Man’s Magic Word, to consider the benefits of pausing at the threshold of the ‘unmappable’ that reading, writing and psychoanalysis encounter.

Thomas Houlton is an Associate Tutor in the School of English at the University of Sussex. He completed his PhD, Using Monuments, in 2016, and is currently preparing it for monograph publication. In the work he uses a mixture of creative writing, psychoanalysis and queer ecological theory to explore the potentiality of monuments as objects that can be used, destroyed, and theorised in radically alternative, productive ways. Since 2012 he has worked as the events programmer at the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence, which organises queer-related events. He is currently developing a research project looking at the connections between queer landscapes and the ‘natural’, death studies, hybrid writing and the memoir.

Joe Kennedy, ‘Caricatures of Critique in Theory and Fiction: Failed Particularity in Felski and Smith’

The protagonist of Zadie Smith’s 2005 novel On Beauty, the listless, frustrated and suggestively named poststructuralist art theorist Howard Belsey, is deployed as the embodiment of a critical attitude which the novel means to present as quixotic and anachronistic. The reader is shown Belsey teaching seminars to groups of largely bemused students, approaching the entirety of the canon of Western painting via a boiled-down ideology critique, his broad brush missing – or so Smith implies – the singular qualities of particular artworks. To treat all art as merely the coded expression of power, it seems, is to lose sight of beauty, which should not be misunderstood as mere mystification.

In her satirical attack on Belsey’s suspicious hermeneutic, Smith displays an attitude not dissimilar to Rita Felski’s objections to what she calls ‘digging down’ in The Limits of Critique (2015). Felski likewise worries that the particularity of artworks is damaged and even obliterated by theory’s jargon, and militates against the ‘bullying […] obfuscatory weight of its words’. However, as I seek to demonstrate, neither Smith nor Felski succeed in reinstating particularity: both On Beauty and The Limits of Critique are given over not to redemptive readings of specific aesthetic acts, but to extensive caricatures of critical reading. Smith’s rancorous portrayal of Belsey overwhelms any genuine formulation of what ‘beauty’ might be in the novel, while Felski becomes trapped within the sardonic tropes she mobilises against critique, leading her to neglect the need to convincingly demonstrate the recuperative potential of post-critical reading. This paper looks to sketch the terms of this impasse, and argue that it is symptomatic of the ongoing value of suspicious reading.

Joe Kennedy teaches and lectures for Gothenburg University at their Sussex branch. His published research focuses on British modernist and postwar fiction and critical theory, and he also writes about literature, politics, art and popular culture for publications including Poetry Review, the TLS, Tate Etc and the Quietus. He is the author of Games Without Frontiers, a partly biographical examination of the relationship between football, art and politics, published by Repeater in 2016. 

Micheal Meeuwis, ‘Dead Silence: Reading Out Loud in Mansfield Park’

What does the history of the novel look like when expanded to consider readers reading out loud and in public, complementing our understanding of silent, private reading? This talk comes out of a larger project that complements the philosophical history of the Rise of the Novel narrative with an account of novels as prompts to oral performance. What does it mean to consider novels as akin to stage plays, capable of creating actual spaces of speech for oral presenters; and, relatedly, virtual spaces of speech in silent readers’ minds?

This talk considers Mansfield Park as a case study of how the philosophical history of the novel’s rise reads differently with an oral reader in mind. I use John Mee’s account of conversation and politeness to frame speech within the novel, centring on the “dead silence” that follows Fanny Price’s address of the slavery issue. I borrow concepts from acoustic criticism, a model of poetic analysis not heretofore applied to novels, to describe how Mansfield Park creates what I term hooks to orality: textual features, in particular punctuation, that encourage readers to process text through a real or virtual oral register. I describe how the novel, when read as akin to a theatrical script, manages the speaking body of the reader and the hearing bodies of a potential audience, attempting to engineer a like-minded community around this contentious issue. This management occurs on two levels: as an element of plot within the novel, and as an attempt to control the reader’s imagination of orality outside of the novel. In my account, Austen’s use of orality is inveigling, inviting the presence of orality–and an embodied world of hearers–in order to corral and coerce free discussion and, ultimately, cognition.

I am Assistant Professor of English at the University of Warwick. I am a performance historian of English literature of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, writing about literature, political theory, and theories of performance. My first manuscript, Everyone’s Theatre: Literature and Daily Life in England, 1860-1914, is currently out with publishers. This reconsiders the traditional political history of Victorian Studies around a new consideration of the omnipresence of theatergoing in Victorian daily life. A new project, Performing Novels, reconsiders the textual and philosophical history of the novel in light of novels read out loud as well as in private.

Emma Seaber, ‘Reading Rituals, Talismanic Reading Objects and Invocatory Literacy Practices in Anorexia Nervosa’

‘Rituals’ in anorexia nervosa are readily tethered to other syndromes — OCD, anxiety and, particularly lately, autism. Cultural inscriptions persistently reach towards making the sui generis ritualistic practices of anorexia nervosa ‘like’ the behaviours seen elsewhere in psychiatry. But I argue such comparisons foreclose more nuanced, kaleidoscopic and perhaps transgressive ways to read anorexia in culture and thereby more complex analysis of how these traits work. This paper examines the preponderance of ritualised literacy behaviours in anorexia — including obsessive ‘binge’ reading; memorisation and recitation; and the emergence of intimate, overdetermined relationships with reading objects — and considers how we might understand these esoteric traits as part of an intimate and arcane literary relationship between reading and writing practices and anorexia, rather than through a strictly diagnostic lens. Read counter-diagnostically, these literacy practices reveal possibilities foreclosed by predominant (psychiatric) approaches. Firstly, I argue, these pursuits hold premonitory significance for anorexic writers, such that early reading and writing behaviours become infused with ‘anorexic’ meaning. Furthermore, close reading also discloses the invocatory purpose of these literacy practices. The potent ‘spells’ of reading and literary ‘rituals’ suffusing anorexia autobiography hold empowering potential, and are used to sustain, mediate or control anorexic thoughts and behaviours. For these writers, books have talismanic properties; words become incantations; rituals have transformative power; at times, reading and writing seem impelled by an external force. In other words, I argue, these obscure and esoteric literacy practices allow us to read anorexia not simply as secretive but as specifically occult: anorexia life-writing exposes the literary means used to summon, enchant, self-possess and even exorcise. By employing a literary framework to consider behavioural aspects of anorexia, this paper emancipates those phenomena from their diagnostic inscription. This provides a route to radically reimagine the power and purpose of life-writing in anorexia.

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at King’s College, London, supported by a Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Doctoral Studentship. My thesis explores the special status of reading and writing practices in anorexia nervosa through memoir, diaries and other life-writing modes to try to delineate the relationship between anorexia nervosa, literacy acts, and illness experience. I recently published my first article, “Reading Disorders: Pro-Eating Disorder Rhetoric and Anorexia Life-Writing” in Literature and Medicine.

Amy Spencer, ‘Reading Ambient Literature: Immersion, distraction and the situated reading experience’

The Ambient Literature project is a two year AHRC funded research programme coordinated by three universities in the UK (UWE Bristol, Bath Spa University and the University of Birmingham) to investigate the potential of situated literary experiences delivered by pervasive computing platforms that respond to the presence of a reader in a physical location to deliver story. The project has commissioned three works of ambient literature from established writers to understand the form, the process of its authoring and the experiences of its readers.

This paper considers the experience and process of reading works of ambient literature. A situated digital work does not need to be bound by a material form, such as a book. It may not be linear and can contain audio and/or textual elements. Without such a framing device, and its position embedded in the physical world, the boundaries of this narrative form are in flux. It can shift and respond to the presence of the reader and its beginning and ending can become blurred. This paper will address the specifics of this fluid form, open to distraction and unpredictability for the reader, and examine the potential of a reading experience informed by pervasive and ubiquitous computing practices.

Located in a physical and/or temporal space and offering a potentially public reading experience, this paper questions where the situated narrative experience begins and ends and how a reader can navigate its thresholds. In doing so it will draw on Schmidt’s (2013) notions of distraction and immersion in relation to the position of the reader. In particular, it will address the idea that attention can dissolve in two opposite directions, towards a lack of concentration or towards an absorbed trance, and explore how, in ambient literature, these become literary devices that shape the reader’s experience.

Dr. Amy Spencer is a post-doctoral research fellow in Ambient Literature at the University of the West of England. She has a PhD from the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College where her thesis, Author, Reader, Text: Collaboration and the Networked Book, focused on collaborative authorship in digital literature. She also has an MA in English from King’s College London. Amy is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and is the author of DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture.

Rebecca Sykes, ‘Institutional Analysis might be a better term…’: Andrea Fraser’s Institutional Critique and the ‘Limits of Critique’

Institutional Critique (IC) is an art historical term used to describe the collection of artistic practices that sought to dismantle ‘the ideological baggage of fine art’ (Crow, 1996) during the late 1960s and 1970s. Later, in the early 1980s, a so-called ‘second wave’ of institutional critics were inspired by the postmodernist theories promulgated by the academy to engage in ‘deconstructive complicitousness’ (Owens, 1980) against/with art’s institutions. In recent years, however, IC has come to be redefined following Andrea Fraser’s, an artist near synonymous with the term, recognition that ‘The Institution’ is an immaterial category that encompasses her personally. It is precisely because, in Fraser’s words, ‘the institution of art is internalized, embodied, and performed by individuals,’ that ‘self-questioning – more than a thematic like “the institution,” […] defines institutional critique as a practice’ (Fraser, 2005). The intimate examination of the self Fraser performs is at odds, however, with the way critique, a punishing methodology of critical interpretation, continues to dominate the way IC is discussed.

The task critique is charged with – ‘to interrogate, unmask, expose, subvert, unravel’ (Felski, 2015) – jars with Fraser’s formulation of IC as a defence of the institution of art ultimately inspired by love. My presentation, therefore, will argue that her work requires an altogether different critical approach to that encouraged by critique, one informed by an explicitly humanistic methodology. I mean to argue that the artist’s embrace of moral and emotional messiness – she is not content to ‘speak of our interests’ in the field of art to the exclusion of the real ‘emotional investments we have in what we do’ (Fraser, 2012) – means that critics must adopt ‘post-critical’ methods of interpretation when engaging with her work.

Rebecca Sykes is an AHRC funded Arts and Humanities doctoral researcher at Birkbeck College, London. Her PhD examines the ethico-affective registers of Institutional Critique, with a particular focus on the work of the artist/theorist Andrea Fraser. She is an art critic and editor of Dandelion Journal.  

 

Helen Tyson, ‘Reading at Random’ in Virginia Woolf’s The Years (1937)’

She skipped through the pages. At first she read a line or two at random; then, from the litter of broken words, scenes rose, quickly inaccurately, as she skipped. The unburied body of a murdered man lay like a fallen tree trunk, like a statue, with one foot stark in the air. Vultures gathered. […] She turned the page quickly. Antigone? She came whirling out of the dust-cloud to where the vultures were reeling […]. Then behold! […] the horsemen leapt down; she was seized; her wrists were bound […] and they bore her, thus bound—where?[1]

In this passage from Virginia Woolf’s 1937 novel, The Years, Sara Pargiter abandons a ‘faded brown book’ of philosophy and picks up, instead, Sophocles’ Antigone. Unlike the impersonal, disinterested, distant modes of reading practised by the male scholars in Woolf’s novels, Sara engages in Woolf’s preferred form of ‘Reading at Random’. Sara’s reading is breathless, imaginative, involved, embodied. Not only, however, might we want to read this scene in The Years as a celebration of feminine pleasure in reading, we might also want to read it alongside Woolf’s analysis of Antigone in Three Guineas. In Three Guineas, arguing that ‘public libraries’ play a crucial role in fighting fascism, Woolf hailed Antigone as ‘a far more instructive analysis of tyranny than any our politicians can offer us.’[2] It is tempting, therefore, to find in Sara, a model of impassioned reading as a form of resistance to the tyrannies of the early twentieth century.

And yet, I want to argue, there is something else at work in this novel, which resists such an interpretation of the woman reading. Later in The Years, North recites Andrew Marvell’s ‘The Garden’ to Sara in a darkened room, but their ‘delicious solitude’ is interrupted by Sara’s disturbingly virulent anti-Semitic outburst when she hears ‘The Jew’ running a bath in the neighbouring room.[3]

Reading these two scenes from The Years alongside each other, I argue that, in her portraits of reading, Woolf offers up an analysis of the psychic and political perils of reading in an age of fascism—an analysis that may be instructive in our own time. Tracking Woolf’s criticisms of the disinterested scholarly modes of reading institutionalised within the universities in the 1930s (her own version of ‘the limits of critique’), this paper nonetheless argues that Woolf does not rest in any easy celebration of the counter-pleasures of identification. To dive deep into the literary text is, for Woolf, to encounter the fragile border between rapturous identification and the troubling psycho-politics of the group. Woolf’s writing, I argue, confronts us with, and challenges, some of the most powerful, and enduring, fantasies at work in modernist culture (and our own) about the role of literature in psychic, social, and political life.

Helen Tyson is a Lecturer in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century British Literature in the School of English at the University of Sussex. Having completed her PhD at Queen Mary University of London in 2016, Helen is working on a monograph entitled Reading Modernism’s Readers: Modernism, Psychoanalysis, and the Early-Twentieth-Century Romance Novel. Beginning in the early twentieth century, this book tracks the figure of the reader in modernism, popular culture, literary criticism and psychoanalysis through to the early 1940s.

[1] Virginia Woolf, The Years, ed. by Hermione Lee (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 127-31.

[2] Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas and A Room of One’s Own, ed. by Morag Shiach (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 272.

[3] The Years, pp. 321-2.

Kiron Ward, ‘A kick to the author’s testicles’: Julio Cortázar, Roberto Bolaño, and ‘Reader Response’’

Mexican border city loosely based on Ciudad Juárez, finds himself thinking about a
book written by ‘a certain Lonko Kilapán’ (216). This book outlines ‘17 proofs’ that
Bernardo O’Higgins, a leader in the Chilean War of Independence, was not in fact of
European descent, but Indigenous: as per its title, ‘O’Higgins was an Araucanian.’
Amalfitano notes that there are plenty of curious and suspicious things about the
book, not least its place and date of publication—Santiago de Chile, 1978, ‘in other
words during the military dictatorship’ (223)—and thinks to himself that we would do
well to read this Kilapán suspiciously: ‘the active reader—the reader as envisioned by
Cortázar—could begin his reading with a kick to the author’s testicles, viewing him
from the start as a straw man’ (224).

This reference to ‘active reading’—the peculiar version of reader response theory
that Julio Cortázar outlines in Hopscotch (1963)—is key to understanding how
Bolaño uses 2666 to suggest new ways of imagining or picturing the world. But its
association with kicking an author in the testicles also makes a none-too-subtle point,
if one nevertheless too-easily-overlooked, about how any use of Cortázar must
definitively reject his embarrassing machismo; indeed, for Cortázar, the opposite of
an ‘active reader’ is a ‘female reader.’ For Bolaño, a theory of reader response that
normalises interpretative agency as male is insufficient to the point of
meaninglessness—‘the art of avoidance, not of revelation’ (267). This presentation
will posit that, among other things, Bolaño uses 2666 to build a critique of Cortázar
that allows us to reconceive ‘reader response’ in line with the limitations of our
subjective standpoints.

Kiron Ward is a final year PhD candidate and Associate Tutor at the University of
Sussex. His project explores the relationship between encyclopaedic thought and
fiction, and focuses on James Joyce’s Ulysses, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the
Dead, and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. In addition to his PhD project, Kiron is currently
editing a special issue of the James Joyce Quarterly, entitled ‘Encyclopedia Joyce,’
with James Phelan (Vanderbilt University), and a collection of essays on Don DeLillo
for Bloomsbury’s Contemporary Critical Perspectives series, with Katherine Da
Cunha Lewin (University of Sussex).

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