This week, I got to see the evening class (hi, evening class!) but the afternoon class didn’t meet, so I have in my mind one very interesting class discussion + so many of your blog posts. And I’m thinking about all that we have to talk about now– about the ways we read The Museum of Innocence, and also about the ways Pascale Casanova might help us think about that reading in the context of *the world*, or, perhaps, the globe.
Kaitlin* led us into this discussion really well, I think, in her post from last week. She said:
“Moving onto next week’s readings, I wonder if our discussion about the good of literature would benefit from a slight shift in outlook. Rather than asking, when reading a work, what the text tells the reader about a particular place at a particular time (as we may consider when reading a work for its aesthetic or cultural value), maybe asking why a reader, living in a particular place and time, would be attracted to a text could be more generative. What does the fact that a reader – whether from the novelist’s own nation, or international—picked up this piece of writing tell us about them? About the society that they are coming from? Placing the reader, and his or her intentions, firmly at the center of the question, hopefully can move the discussion beyond tensions over authenticity and towards fruitful meditations on literature’s value in the polis, the nation, and the classroom.”
What is Kaitlin asking here– and how does the line of inquiry she’s setting up here intersect with Casanova’s? How might you use your own reading of The Museum of Innocence as a case study to answer either or both of these sets of questions?
Or, maybe we could say: How might Casanova’s carefully plotted terminology– “the World Republic of Letters,” “world literary space,” etc.– help us in the future? Let’s try to think of these “key terms” as tools and define their utility. You could take one or more of them in your blog post and think about what it can do, possibly but not necessarily in relation to The Museum of Innocence.
I am really curious to hear what you’re going to say.
And I’m also thinking about a couple of ideas you raised in our class on Wednesday evening, particularly:
- The “distance” that Pamuk creates between his protagonist and his reader. As you observed, the novel is structured in such a way that the reader isn’t invited to share in Kemal’s emotional experience very much, even though the novel is arguably *about* the apparently emotional experience of young love. How does Pamuk construct that distance, and what does he achieve with it?
- The “record-keeping” function of literature in a national/transnational culture. We talked about the ways literature can work as a repository of cultural artifacts– possibly, even, like a museum? Pamuk raises this possibility implicitly and explicitly at times, but how, why, and to what effect?
Also, on a more local level: Pascale Casanova refers to lots of texts and ideas that might be new to you. Which ones seem particularly important, and which do you want to make sure that we discuss when we meet next?
*Correction! I attributed this quotation wrongly to Emily at first, because I was also really interested in some related observations that Emily made, and I made that citation incorrectly in my notes. I am grateful to Kaitlin for pointing out my error– and let this be a lesson to you: Never rely on your notes when you’re making a citation!