The Deed of Reading: Literature * Writing * Language * Philosophy (Hardback)Garrett Stewart (author)
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Garrett Stewart begins The Deed of Reading with a memory of his first hesitant confrontation, as a teenager, with poetic density. In that early verbal challenge he finds one driving force of literature: to make language young again in its surprise, coming alive in each new event of reading. But what exactly happens in the textual encounter to make literary phrasing resonate so deeply with readers?
To take the measure of literary writing, The Deed of Reading convenes diverse philosophic commentary on the linguistics of literature, with stress on the complementary work of Stanley Cavell and Giorgio Agamben. Sympathetic to recent ventures in form-attentive analysis but resisting an emphasis on so-called surface reading, Stewart explores not some new formalism but the internal pressures of language in formation, registering the verbal infrastructure of literary prose as well as verse. In this mode of "contextual" reading, the context is language itself. Literary phrasing, tapping the speech act's own generative pulse, emerges as a latent philosophy of language in its own right, whereby human subjects, finding no secure place to situate themselves within language, settle for its taking place in, through, and between them.
Stewart watches and hears this dynamics of wording played out in dozens of poems and novels over two centuries of English literary production-from Wordsworth and Shelley to Browning and Hopkins, from Poe and Dickens through George Eliot, Conrad, James, and on to Toni Morrison. The Deed of Reading offers a revisionary contribution to the ethic of verbal attention in the grip of "deep reading."
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 22 mm
"This is a brilliant work and it certainly repays close attention, the reader will be dazzled by Stewart's verbal dance. But it is also a difficult work written by a man with a strong sense of nuance and complexity, dwelling frequently on syllepsis and the subtleties of metalinguistics, poetics, and rhetoric. All of this requires a lot from the reader, and those who are not specialists may not have the patience for it."-- R. White * Choice *
"The Deed of Reading is a dazzling, transformative book. Garrett Stewart's supple, lambent, witty prose is itself a laboratory of the effects to which he pays attention. This is a critical poetics, a poetry of criticism, with Stewart's prose a field of elucidating experience: it is consistently smart, alert, and animated. The Deed of Reading is exhilarating. It's not just that we'll never read Eliot, Poe, or Dickens the same way again; we'll never read the daily newspaper the same way again."-- Susan Wolfson, Princeton University, author of Romantic Interactions: Social Being and the Turns of Literary Action
"This is a consummate study by (that rare thing) a scholar of genius. It gives us new ears and eyes for what we read and a new conceptual armature for thinking about how. More informed and consequential analysis occurs in any of its chapters than I find these days in many a book. Making an example of itself, it sets a high standard, draws a wide horizon, and bids fair to change minds. The work of a master in the craft of analytically inquisitive response to literature's resonant writtenness, this book reads like Stewart's summa critica literaria, consolidating the practices already exemplified in his books Reading Voices and Novel Violence."-- Herbert F. Tucker, University of Virginia, author of Epic: Britain's Heroic Muse 1790-1910
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