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Revolution of the OrdinaryLiterary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell$
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Toril Moi

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226464305

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.001.0001

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Reading as a Practice of Acknowledgment

Reading as a Practice of Acknowledgment

The Text as Action and Expression

Chapter:
(p.196) 9 Reading as a Practice of Acknowledgment
Source:
Revolution of the Ordinary
Author(s):

Toril Moi

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.003.0010

The chapter argues that texts are actions and expressions. To read a text is not to set out to describe an object, but to understand why an action was done, and what it expresses. The chapter discusses the differences between this view and different forms of discourse theory, particularly as elaborated by Benveniste, Ricoeur and Bakhtin. Applied to actions, the “Why this?” question asks about intentions. The chapter demonstrates the inadequacy of the picture of author’s intentions formulated both by the New Critics and by poststructuralist critics. It argues that Stanley Cavell’s concept of “acknowledgement” helps us to produce a different picture of reading, one that is as open to admiration as to critique. It rejects attempts to provide one over-arching definition of literature, or of “literariness.” It also rejects attempts to argue that literature necessarily has specific ethical effects. Aesthetic experience is ordinary experience. Drawing on Beauvoir and Diamond, the chapter shows that reading can be pictured as an adventure, as a quest for the discovery of something new. A good reading is the account of the reader’s experience, of his or her adventure.

Keywords:   action, expression, adventure, discourse theory, Stanley Cavell, acknowledgment, literariness, Simone de Beauvoir, aesthetic experience, author's intention

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