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Poetics of Reading

Poetics of Reading

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 202
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  • Book Info
    Poetics of Reading
    Book Description:

    What happens when we read novels and how do we make sense of them? Inge Wimmers explores these questions by developing a flexible poetics of reading that generously opens up the interpretive space between reader and text, while drawing on current theories of reading and combining rhetorical, pragmatic, and phenomenological approaches. "Poetics," here, is extended beyond the study of purely textual features to structures of exchange between text and reader. In a discussion of four major French novels from the seventeenth century to the present, the author not only sets up a broad-based poetics but also makes important contributions to contemporary issues in the study of narrative. Wimmers introduces the concept of multiple, interlocking frames of reference that allows for the integration of diverse critical perspectives. Analyzing La Princesse de Cleves, Madame Bovary, A la recherche du temps perdu, and Projet pour une revolution a New York, she shows how texts provide some frames of reference, while others are produced by the reader's disposition and cultural milieu.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5961-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)

    This study began with the question, What is it to read a novel? The question seemed straightforward enough to me at first, though I knew that to define reading I would have to extricate myself from a jungle of conflicting theories. Whatever the theory, however, reading always seemed to involve both a reader and a text. Or so I thought, until I realized that the very concepts of reader and text were seriously being questioned.

    In his provocatively titledIs There a Text in This Class?Stanley Fish, for one, expresses such rising skepticism: “In 1970 I was asking the...

  6. ONE Frames of Reference and the Reader
    (pp. 3-23)

    Reading is a complex process that gradually involves us, as we read, in multiple, interlocking “frames of reference.” I am borrowing the term from Nelson Goodman who, inWays of World-making, writes: “If I ask about the world, you can offer to tell me how it is under one or more frames of reference; but if I insist that you tell me how it is apart from all frames, what can you say? We are confined to ways of describing whatever is described. Our universe, so to speak, consists of these ways rather than of a world or of worlds.”¹...

  7. TWO Rewriting vraisemblance in La Princesse de Clèves
    (pp. 24-56)

    WhenLa Princesse de Clèveswas first published in March 1678, it gave rise to lively discussions. Of major interest in these first responses to the book was the behavior of its central character, the princess. A telling example is the poll organized byLe Mercure Galantthat asked its readers whether Mme. de Clèves was right to tell her husband about her love for the due de Nemours. The majority thought not. Her conduct seemed implausible, since according to social custom (the well-established code ofbienséance), such behavior was not sanctioned.¹ Readers of the time did not ask themselves...

  8. THREE Madame Bovary or the Dangers of Misreading
    (pp. 57-88)

    Though the novel’s title focuses the reader’s attention on what he may well expect to be its central subject, such expectations are frustrated from the start, since the opening chapters focus on Charles, not Emma. Nor is this narrative focus a stable one, as soon becomes evident when other disconcerting hurdles are encountered. Through jarring contrasts and shifting perspectives, Flaubert’s reader is soon drawn into a more active, hermeneutic reading; the central question is no longer “What will happen next?” but, rather, “Why are things told that way?” This heightened attention to narrative form takes us beyond the story world...

  9. FOUR Proust’s Palimpsest: Multiple Frames of Reference in A la recherche du temps perdu
    (pp. 89-120)

    A striking similarity betweenMadame BovaryandA la recherche du temps perduis the central importance given to the question of reading. Both novels include detailed descriptions of how their central characters read and respond to works of art. While the focus inMadame Bovaryis on negative versions of reading that warn us, through irony, about the dangers of misreading, Proust’s novel abounds in models of reading designed to show how the fictions of art and literature set in motion a process of reading that is creative, not destructive. Though Proust’s narrator also gives a few examples of...

  10. FIVE Toward a Reflexive Act of Reading: Robbe-Grillet’s Projet pour une révolution à New York
    (pp. 121-153)

    Among Robbe-Grillet’s novels to date, none has received more attention or provoked stronger reactions thanProjet pour une révolution à New York. What captures our attention is not so much the author’s transgressive narrative practice, to which readers of thenouveau romanare accustomed by now,¹ but, rather, the novel’s insistent focus on sado-erotic scenes of aggression in which women are victimized. To help the startled reader naturalize the unnatural practices displayed in his novel, Robbe-Grillet, in the explanatory flyer inserted in the book, offers one model for reading by pointing out that the themes generating his text are modern...

  11. SIX Conclusion: New Directions in the Reading of Narrative Fiction
    (pp. 154-164)

    What is it to read novels? This is the question asked at the outset of this study. It is clear by now that there is no one simple answer. Readings differ depending on the kind of novel being read and the reader’s purpose, interests, and ideology. By opening the interpretive space between reader and text to include both text interpretation and self-interpretation, the frames of reference that come into play are multiplied. Moreover, the emphasis in recent theories of reading on emotional response—in particular the enjoyment readers get from taking an active part—opens up new directions for a...

    (pp. 165-172)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 173-179)