Week 3

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

15 Responses to Week 3

  1. In Orhan Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence” I saw that the distance between the protagonist and his readers allowed us to see details about other characters in the text that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen if the book was only filled with Kemal’s emotions. Pamuk writes, ‘“This has nothing to do with shops, wealth, or poverty.’ ‘It has everything to do with it,’ said Sibel, with the determination that attends having given something a great deal of thought and reached a painful conclusion”’ (Pamuk, 218). Here we start to see that Sibel understands that Kemal will always love Fusun, and their engagement is in jeopardy. By this text not solely focusing on Kemal’s emotions we see that Sibel feels as if she has reached a “painful conclusion,” and we get to see how she feels about her fiancé’s love for another woman. We continue to be distant from how Kemal is emotionally feeling when he describes how his mother, “…watched the bearers carry my father’s coffin from the mosque to the funeral stone, my mother began crying so hard that we immediately knew she would not make it down the stairs and across the street to join the funeral” (Pamuk, 227). When Kemal’s father dies we see that it is a very traumatic experience for the family, and Kemal continues to wish Fusun and her family were at the funeral. Again, by not inviting us to share in his grief I thought Kemal made it up to us by providing significant details about his mother’s emotional state. I also noticed that if Kemal wanted us to share the grief he was feeling there would have been less details, and the funeral for his father would be more broadly described.

    Pascale Casanova’s “Literature as A World” also helped me to understand Pamuk’s text a bit more when he discusses not seeing literature through boarders. He writes, “Once we adopt this world perspective, we can immediately see that national boundaries, or linguistic ones, simply screen out the real effects of literary domination and inequality” (Casanova, 8). Pamuk’s text is littered with discussions of inequality that we see through Kemal’s perspective. I started to notice that once I looked at literature beyond where I live I started to understand more about Istanbul’s culture, and how literature does not just consist of text written in the United States. It also made me wonder about the number of text out there in the world that we Americans will never get to read or possess.

  2. Deepika Khan says:

    Pascale Casanova’s scholarly article, “Literature as a World,” is full of subject-specific terminology meant to explain the place literature holds in the world. One particular phrase that Casanova frequently mentions is the “‘world literary space’” (Casanova 72), which I would argue may be directly applied to Orhan Pamuk’s novel, “The Museum of Innocence.” Casanova defines the “‘world literary space’” as a “mediating” area between a piece of literature and the world that allows readers to “internally and externally” criticize various works of literature (Casanova 72). Allowing readers to view and discuss literary works in a ‘world literary space’ may encourage us, as in me and my classmates, to eventually answer the objective of the class which is “What Good is Literature?”. By reading Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence” with a ‘world literary space’ in mind, it may be agreed that the novel is a complicated love story between two young souls. Further analysis would reveal the role classism, particularly the bourgeoisie, plays in Kemal and Füsun’s relationship as the events of the novel progresses. With Füsun no longer showing up to the “Merhamet Apartments” (Pamuk 145), Kemal starts to collect anything and everything Füsun touched as a way to “[find] relief for a time” (Pamuk 178). As the reader, we begin to see the need Kemal has to preserve any objects that remind him of his love. Though Pamuk’s story may be limited nationally because of the multiple references to specifically Turkish cities and traditions, Füsun’s belongings are viewed transnationally since they are displayed in a museum for anyone to see. I believe the Museum of Innocence, the actual museum, not the book, is literally a ‘world literary space’ because it brings to life fictional objects that only hold significance in the literary sphere. Someone who never read Pamuk’s book may not understand why an earring on display is actually quite tragic in the world of Pamuk’s characters. Only if a person allows his or her self to live in a ‘world literary space’ within the context of a work of literature will they understand the significance of seemingly ordinary objects.

  3. Emily Abrams says:

    I am glad the topic of “distance” between protagonists and readers was raised in Wednesday evening class. As a reader, I find myself consistently pondering readers’ response to texts. It is a kind of self-conscious process I go through, where I wonder if my own response to a text is like that other readers. I find myself usually asking some of the following questions: to what extent am I or others actually engaged with a literary text and why? Is it matter of the author’s prose or something to do with the depth of their characters? Is it genre-based? Is it relatability (or lack thereof), curiosity, or some combination of both? Surely all of these questions scrape the surface of the core questions of our seminar: what good is literature and – its inverse – what is good literature?

    I found this week’s The Museum of Innocence readings presented a more pronounced reader-protagonist “distance.” I wouldn’t say that questions of morality over Kemal’s infidelity that underpins this distance, but rather the degree to which reader’s sympathize Kemal’s emotional reflections and his peculiar habits.

    There is arguably a clear distance created by the predetermined function of Kemal’s self-reflective narrative intertwined with the museum commentary. In this week’s readings, readers find Kemal becoming more self-conscious of the implications his reflections may have on his reader’s response. For instance, when Kemal retells his abandonment of picnic outing with Sibel and their friends in Chapter 27, he concedes, “I shall not dwell on the expression of genuine concern and sorrow on my fiancé’s face as I stated up the car—lest readers judge me as heartless” (Pamuk 154). Increasingly self-aware of his treatment of Sibel and the optics of his reflections, Kemal disrupts the flow of his narrative to specifically address his audience. Directives like such presume a growing protagonist-reader distance, more pronounced by Kemal himself.

    In another instance, in Chapter 36, Kemal pauses to directly address his readers about the sadness his feels with inclusion of his father’s slipper in the museum. He confesses, “Perhaps because I gave them no importance, or perhaps because I didn’t want readers and visitors to my museum to feel too much contempt for me, I have concealed a few habits picked up during this period” (Pamuk 182-183). Here, Kemal’s awareness of his reflections becomes a deliberate omission of facts in order to curb “reader contempt” not only draw attention to growing reader-protagonist distance but now raises (or should raise) concern over the Kemal’s reliability as a narrator. What is he concealing? Are readers, in turn, left to imagine that Kemal had worse addictive habits? It is interesting how by being so conscious of optics, Kemal is arguably inadvertently fueling adverse optics for his readers.

    Regarding Kemal’s commentary on the objects in his museum, it becomes increasingly difficult to share in his narrative development when the readers like ourselves—here at Queens college—are separated physically from museum’s objects. The absence of images within the novel and/or absence of physical presence at the museum to pair with Kemal’s directive descriptions leaves readers to their own devices to formulate conceptions of said objects (e.g. as per our class discussion, readers may consider the ideal form of an object rather than the literal one the author intended to communicate through the protagonist). Granted, a quick Google search of the actual museum’s objects can resolve this reader separation, but this demand for reader initiative could disrupt the natural flow of the reading experience itself.

  4. In The Museum of Innocence, Pamuk creates a divide, or distance in the way that he portrays his story in the novel. Although the audience is there reading and learning about these events, the events are still very personal to Kemal, notifying the audience that they are not as included as it may appear to be. In one of the earlier moments of the text, Fusun questions Kemal about his cologne. In The Museum of Innocence, the text states, “Sitting in those airless rooms, surrounded by my mother’s old vases and dresses and dusty discarded furniture, going one by one through my father’s amateurish snapshots, I recalled moments from my childhood and youth that I hasn’t even realized I’d forgotten” (Pamuk 21). In this instance, Pamuk creates a distance to the audience with the way he chooses his words. He explains that Kemal recalls these memories as he’s looking through the photos, but he doesn’t include what the memories were exactly. Only once Fusun arrives and she begins talking to Kemal, does the reader learn about those memories. However, the audience is still kept at a distance, as the memories are being spoken about between the two characters, not going into every detail, leaving a lack of connection between the audience and the characters. So one way which the author creates distance is with his word choices. Distance is also used in order to limit the audience, and to focus on Kemal. In the text, it states, “With all my will, I resolved to extract myself from this bed, this room, and these objects that had aged so beautifully, that were so heavy, with the fragrance of happy love, each one murmuring, creaking, rustling of its own accord” (Pamuk 157). From this quote, we see only Kemal’s perspective, which is what we see throughout the book. The audience is never truly addressed, but Kemal’s perspective is always on display without giving the audience too much into his emotions. So I think Pamuk is able to create a distance towards the readers, because he chooses to focus on the character, and edit out any access information which he might feel gives away too much of the character, or what could take away from the character. By creating the distance towards the reader, Pamuk is able to achieve giving insight into how Kemal looks at the world around him. We see parts of how he reacts to certain situations and how he chooses to attempt to work around them, but we also see a lot of his observations, such as how he views Sibel and Fusun, like when they have a conversation at the engagement party.

    Casanova’s article questions why we should not begin with limitations? Why instead, do we begin with something so general, that we then must edit it down in order to get the point across? From this section of Casanova’s article how “nations were considered to be separate” (78). But if you take out the idea of all these countries and how they interact with one another and you just apply this to literature, you could view the nations as the author and the audience, with a divide or a wall up. However, this divide doesn’t necessarily mean that the author can’t get their story across. We see that Pamuk is able to get the audience to truly understand what Kemal’s character experiences and observes by having the audience at a positions where they are looking into this individual’s life. So limitations doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be a disconnect, it depends how it’s done in order to determine if others will understand it.

  5. Kaitlin Margaret McDermott says:

    The readings for this week, in tandem with the memory of Pamuk’s op-ed from last week, helped me to bring context to the experience that I, an American reader without intimate knowledge of aristocratic life in Istanbul in 1975, am having with the text. Specifically, I started thinking more about the topic that my classmates have so keenly keyed into: distance. The distance in this novel is, as others have noted, rooted partly in the closed-characters that Pamuk creates. Emily cited a particularly good example of this distance in Chapter 36. “Because I didn’t want readers and visitors to my museum to feel too much contempt for me, I have concealed a few habits picked up during this period,” says Kemal. In this moment, he not only recognizes the distance that exists between he and his audience, but rationalizes that distance as a necessary step to stave off their “contempt” for him (182-83). Though he goes on to describe some of these “habits,” it is not in a confessional, unrestrained way, but rather in measured and calculated detail. This coldness separates storyteller from reader in a tangible way, causing the narrative to ascend almost to a different plane of existence, despite Kemal’s frequent addresses to the museum visitor. I would note also that there is a second level of distance at work in this text related to time and place. We have discussed briefly the “good” of reading world literature, noting a few of the challenges to international readers. This text is a good example of how challenging a foreign text can be, as it relies heavily on references to advertisements, pop-culture, and places that a non-Turkish reader would unlikely be familiar with. For example, in Chapter 31 Kemal describes map he created for himself delineating regions from which “[he] was totally banned” (164). Describing the locations in detail imposes a shocking level of distance between readers (international v. national) and the speaker. This structural, cultural distance is of a different type than the narrative distance noted by my peers, but they overlap often in Pamuk’s novel.

    In Casanova’s piece, there are a number of interesting ideas clearly linked to the reader’s possible experience with Pamuk’s novel. His most interesting idea, to me, comes in the section on “Seeing through borders.” In this section, he explores further the idea of a “world literary space,” starting out with tracing some of the history behind closed nationalist literary borders. About halfway through the section, he writes: “The national division of literature leads to a form of astigmatism” (78). Assigning a personal ailment, one which affects, quite invasively, what can be seen and experienced by an afflicted individual, carries interesting implications when applied to nations as a whole. In this statement, Casanova evokes a piercing mental image of not only a nation’s peoples, but a nation as a unit, handicapped by the limitations on “sight” beyond national literary and linguistic boundaries. The exact nature of this handicap – whether that be lack of cultural awareness or being deprived of the beauty of certain texts – is not fully apparent, but relates well enough to the world created by Pamuk versus the world that is experienced by his foreign readers (us). The content of the text itself is isolating for foreign readers, as it is riddled with references that a non-Turkish audience is unlikely to pick-up on. This puzzlement is likely to be enhanced by the reader who actually visits Pamuk’s museum in Istanbul and must discern the double importance of the relics. In this way, I wonder if the creation of a “world literary space” is sufficient to transcend the longstanding national (linguistic) boundaries imposed on readers? The notion is idealistic and grand, but is it possible when there are funds of knowledge that some readers do not have access to and cannot access, even in translation, with footnotes, and with the help of scholarly guides?

    In a similar vein to the observations that I focused on in my reading and blog post last week, this week I again was thinking about the tension between writer and reader, particularly that which exists between a writer and his or her international reader. To be honest, over the past few weeks I’ve struggled to get into Pamuk’s novel. This was puzzling to me for a few different reasons: (1) the writing (even though in translation) is clear, straightforward, has good style, and interestingly plays with boundaries between real and fiction – collapsing and expanding distance between the representation of a thing and the thing itself, and (2) a plot revolving around a forbidden love affair with stakes as high as they are and this novel has a degree of intrigue built-in from the beginning. And yet, I was finding it very difficult to connect with the text, particularly with Kemal, though broadly with the greater cast of Pamuk’s characters. Though any English major will know by now the folly of deeming “good” texts to be “relatable,” or of faulting a text for sheer-likeability of its character or plot, I would argue that these metrics do matter. And, in my view, they especially matter when our class is asking the greater questions of “why read?” and “why continue to do so beyond college?” Though, as English majors, many of us are likely predisposed to a love of reading as a practice, these questions still are relevant: Is pleasure reading done to absorb the aesthetic value of a text? For the cultural enrichment? How about for political engagement? If any, or none, of these options are the reason, then why? Why read Pamuk when the distance is so great? I don’t quite have the answer to these questions, but perhaps, in a weird turn of Socratic-fate, that may be the point.

  6. Reading Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence” this week, alongside Casanova’s “Literature as a World” and my classmates’ posts, has driven me to think meaningfully about the dichotomy between the distance Pamuk creates between his narrative and his reader and the apparent emotional relatability of his text. Casanova states that creators of literature often try to situate themselves “neither too near nor too far” from their reader and cites several literary masters as examples of this. One such author, according to Casanova, is James Joyce.
    Earlier this year I read Joyce’s “Dubliners,” as I mentioned in class, and although the stories within exist in a time in which I haven’t lived and a place which I haven’t visited, creating an unavoidable distance, their beauty and emotion still struck me to my core. Why is this? How can I have such a reaction when an impassable distance exists between myself and the text? I would argue that, although the places, people, and times within the stories are foreign, the structures connecting them are deeply familiar. Unrequited love, choosing between pursuing your dreams or fulfilling your obligations, struggling to make ends meet – these are things that readers today still understand.
    The same relationship exists within Pamuk’s novel. While the places he visits, the people he names, and many of the objects in his museum are intrinsically foreign to us, the structures surrounding them are not. In a vacuum, these Kantian things-in-themselves are unintelligible to us. Thankfully, we aren’t meant to understand these things in a vacuum – we are meant to understand their simulacra as Pamuk presents them in the structure of his work. While the things themselves create distance, the structures create familiarity. A can of Turkish soda is meaningless to me, but the national familiarity with an ad campaign is not. How many of us see a glass bottle of Coca-Cola and immediately think of polar bears? A single strange earring is meaningless to me but keeping knick-knacks as mementos of a moment in my life is not. From where I sit at my desk I spy a number of such things – virtually valueless and completely meaningless to anyone but me. I’ve never been to the Hilton in Istanbul, especially not in the 70s, but I’ve heard the phrase “Oh, she’s staying in a corner room at The Standard? Must be nice.”
    While the setting of and events within Pamuk’s novel unarguably create distance between itself and a foreign reader, the way meaning is applied to the representations therein once again inspire closeness, achieving Casanova’s balance of distance.

  7. Literary War

    I don’t believe in the distance between the reader and the writer. It’s interesting to see it discussed in conjunction with many books, almost until it’s driven over pointlessly and circled back around. But I guess that’s as good a way to start out as any other. When we ask someone to read what we write we erase distance. Readers reading and writers writing take on a form so composed of imagination and belief, of mindsets being questioned, challenged, and distorted, one may ask themselves if we think about it, it’s not distance but madness, a sort of folie a deux that’s struck between their relationship.

    Maybe, it’s the lack of distance that we need to discuss.

    True, there is how much we let a reader see, but even Pamuk is aware of this. He creates distance, but is it so unfathomable that the readers can’t infer and breach it? What we choose for a reader not to see is equally as important as what they do, how much it allows us to inference why it isn’t being shown, and what we can draw from that lack of in the text about author/character/plot/ etc. Casanova’s Literature As A World brings up many fascinating points as mediates on the “long and merciless war” of literature.

    I think from there I’d love to discuss the idea of What makes some literature valuable and some not? Not necessarily good, just valuable. Not because of a literary rebirth or a city, but why we still read “the classics” when are they still classics, or are they outdated? I really loved the use of Berkleley’s “Eess est percipi” and how it correlates with writers and their stigma of dying either broke/unsuccessful and/or simply unrecognized only to eventually be herald decades later and h (Poe, Melville, Dickinson, Schwartz, a whole slew of people I can’t think of right now but there’s certainly enough to count) and how this ideology plays into it.

    This piece also juxtaposed very well with my 244 class and how it speaks about representation. Literature isn’t a war, it’s a web. There are flies and spiders and every other bug in between. There are threads monetary and literary and social. I think the question that this article raises is We as readers are already a part of this construct, how do we use it to find ‘better literature’ if it exists? How do we use it to better ourselves as writers? And most importantly, how can we really know what ‘Better’ is in a world that’s pretty much shying away from having a ‘literary-center’ due to the digital age and rapidly changing?

  8. Venessa says:

    While reading “Literature As A World,” it interested me that Casanova regards literature as a war brought about by post-colonialism between national and international literature. He asks, “Is it possible to re-establish the lost bond between literature, history, and the world…”(Casanova 71). He goes on to list the different divisions that national and international texts face, however in regards to the quote, I feel like Pamuk’s novel does invite the reader into the novel while combining those elements. Throughout the novel, the history is set through Kemal’s use of time. He tells us that his story is set in the 1970’s. It expands into the 80’s as he moves on with the story, but the “history” aspect is given with that timeframe. We can situate when the novel is taking place, and the events that take place in the novel are world events. Pamuk draws on European fashion and news at the time, and also the fighting that is brewing during that time. He also describes new innovations of the time, to keep the reader immersed in the setting. This invites the reader to the “worldly” aspect Casanova speaks of. The novel itself is the literature that is drawing upon both aspects to create a story that is both national and international on some level. Turkish people will know exactly what Kemal speaks of when he recalls certain objects or places, yet international readers will have some idea of what it is because they are reading the novel. Pamuk crosses those boarders in drawing international readers into the world of Turkey, where they can become part of the story. They are experiencing Kemal’s journey through artifacts that they would be able to recognize in the museum. I believe Pamuk does what Casanova says is an approach to shift the ordinary vantage-point on literature, demonstrating “it will be possible to understand each motif, each colour in its most minute detail; that is, each text, each individual author, on the basis of their relative position within this immense structure” (Casanova 73). Pamuk, through this novel does indeed draw the reader into each aspect of Turkish bourgeoisie life, making the position within the structure explicit.

  9. Stacey McDonald says:

    In Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, he continues to structure a distance between himself and the reader by withholding information as a means of self-preservation, and maintaining what little pride he has left after the abrupt ending to his affair with Fusun.
    This is evident most, in my opinion, in the description of his meeting and conversation with Ceyda, Fusun’s friend, in hopes that she will carry a letter to Fusun, thereby reuniting them. Pamuk says that this letter “remains in it’s envelope to keep a long story short, and to spare” him “a full disclosure of the shame it caused” him “still, twenty years later” (Pamuk, 179). I believe that keeping this letter in an envelope, yet still on display, Pamuk allows the entirety of his museum to hold onto a certain air of mystery; upon seeing it behind the glass case, and again behind it’s paper vesicle, the museum’s visitors may or may not realize that this very exhibit is something they cannot touch- not with their hands, yes, but also not with their eyes, they cannot smell it, they cannot see it- the letter is completely off-limits to them, even though Pamuk seems to put the rest of his troubles of his affair with Fusun on display. If I were to walk through the museum and see the letter in this way, I would most certainly question whether or not there was something else, in any of the exhibits I had seen already or had yet to see, that Pamuk was hiding in plain sight.
    Additionally, Pascale Casanova’s “Literature as a World” in short lays the claim that if a country does not have a high standing in either the economic or political worlds, the works of it’s writers are less likely to see the world beyond their countries borders. This point, along with Pamuk’s distance between his readers, visitors, and true emotions brought the words of his New York Times Article “Who do you write for? That is the question” flashing before my eyes- that we “write for their ideal reader, for their loved ones, for themselves or for no one.” But with the literary culture standing as it does today, we are denying so many writers their opportunity to find an audience, to find their ideal reader. For Kemal, the ideal reader of his letter was Fusun, only Fusun, and while he wants the world to know that the letter was written, for his intents and purposes it does not matter if anyone but her were ever to read it again. However, for the many writers in countries that do not have the economic and political power to thrust their work onto the front lines, the literary community is not only inadvertently denying itself of the next “classic”, the next great modern work, the next game changer, but denying a voice from being heard; a voice that might be able to connect with an unexpected reader, a reader searching for something outside of the norms.

  10. Delving deeper into our class conversation on “space” and “distance” I would suggest that Pamuk intentionally creates this dimension to the novel excludes to portray this idea of the Elites versus the lower class.

    While reading I could not help but feel awkward reading into Kemal’s life, and although I initially attributed this feeling to the fact that Kemal is retelling the story later into the future I find now that this is could have been a deliberate choice of Pamuk attempting to keep Kemal’s world separate from the audience.

    The fact that us as readers are only able view the story via Kemal’s viewpoint already puts us at a disadvantage. From this, the readers are only able see his version and do not understand what is going on through characters like Füsun that assist in progression of the narrative.

    I suggest that this is choice is done in relation to the class division. The fact that Kemal has a wealthy background gives him the ability to tell his tale without interruption or input, giving the impression that what he remembers should be taken as completely true. This contrasts with someone like Füsun who is constantly looked down upon for her job as a shop girl and subsequently (from what we have read so far) is not able to share her side with the readers. In this case, wealth (and possibly gender) gives an individual the right to voice their story.

    Understanding this class division falls in line with what, Casanova notes as the “literary space- the space exists between literature and the world” (Casanova 72). Within this literary space the “struggles of all sorts—political, social, national, gender, ethnic—come to be refracted, diluted, deformed or transformed according to a literary logic, and in literary forms” (72). This space within the text and the reader is what according to Casanova allows us to make these connects and pose questions in connection to the reading. By understanding the distance/effect a work of writing has on society and an individual, there demonstrates this larger world of literature that a text works through, and thus, continues to demonstrate the power of literature on society.

  11. Khurram says:

    I’m drawn to this idea of temporality that Casanova brings up, that Pamuk explicitly and implicitly writes about, and that I think makes up at least a part of Kaitlin’s prompt.

    Temporality is a measure of a relationship with a point of time, and not time itself (this will matter later — I’ll swap out time a few…times). In the context of Casanova’s work, the spatial and temporal qualities of a work are relative to how close to or far from the reference point — the central text at a given time — said work is. Casanova presents this as time zones (i.e., the Greenwich Meridian of literature) where GMT is whatever is most modern, but I think this might work better if the metaphor was gravity. A work positioned at a distance from the central work of its time can either be drawn closer to it for its timeliness, ejected from it for its outdatedness, or become the new gravitational center with a more substantial force because it establishes new modernity. I think Casanova kind of contests this idea of central gravity in his world space or world-system section – that is, a gravitational metaphor for the literary globe implies everything is pulling and pushing from one another and not that any section could exist in an “objective relation” – but I’m okay with that.

    Now, replace the central work with a central reader, simply because the draw of relativity – the absence of standards, not the physics theory – adjusts significance in literature on a micro level, but that doesn’t stop significance from occurring on a macro level. I think you can see this with Museum of Innocence, where the contained world within the novel and the events outside it could mean something to any reader for any number of reasons – thematic familiarity, prose style, author, the museum itself, city, state, country, time period, class assignment, and others– but they still mean something.

    Kaitlin’s right, we should be asking why we are drawn to any given work at any given time of our lives. It’s a matter of distance in a specific moment. When we ask that question, we’re the central force, and the works we come across orbit us. In Casanova terms, it’s possible that all works aren’t finding their coordinates to a central work, but to a central audience. I don’t want to call this a target audience (yet, I have to think on this further).

    On distance, and specifically the distance we’ve talked about in class: maybe that’s Pamuk’s way of testing what the reader in his reader-author transaction is here for. Or, in other words, what the reader is attracted to in the work. If you’re fighting to get over the distance, for example, maybe you’re drawn to passionate-yet-doomed young love. If you’re okay with the “on display” nature of the novel, perhaps you’re just here to walk the sentences as if they were aisles. The novel’s spatial and temporal value becomes untethered from borders, time periods, even politics in the way; its place is wherever it finds itself with each of us.

  12. Jude Binda says:

    Our discussion of distance is particularly interesting to me because distance, as many of my classmates have noted, can be defined in many ways. Of the different interpretations, I find myself constantly circling back to the distance between the thing and the representation of the thing. Like the conversation we had in class about what a bed is versus what we picture a bed to be in our heads, the same distinction can be made about anything that exists. What are the differences between a thing and what we think of that thing? How did those differences come to be?

    Pondering this, I remembered a TED talk entitled “The Danger of a Single Story” given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie back in 2009. It was a fairly popular video, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are already familiar with it. For those of you who are not, Adichie grew up in Nigeria and came to the United States for university when she was 19. Upon meeting her roommate for the first time, she was treated as a spectacle. Her roommate asked to listen to her “tribal music” and was disappointed when Adichie, instead, played her tape of Mariah Carey, which I find hilarious. Adichie goes on to describe the fear she had when going to Mexico for the first time because of all the crime related things she has read and heard. Adichie admits that all of her fears were founded on false perceptions of Mexicans based on books, American news, and personal biases. She then came to the realization that this is not dissimilar to the way her roommate’s perception of her was ill-informed by the media she consumed about Nigerians.

    All this is connected to distance because we are physical and informationally separated from the greater majority of the world. Because it is impossible for us to intimately understand all the different people and cultures in the world, we turn to literature and art to inform us. Adichie’s “single story” refers to the limited understanding we have of that which we do not have experience with. The written, and even visual, representation of a thing can never capture what it is really like to interact with it. Using this logic, the artifacts in The Museum of Innocence cannot even tell the full story. I would go as far as to say that only those who have lived through certain things can truly understand what they were like. People who did not have the first-hand experience are only capable of having an understanding of the representation of the thing, rather than an understanding of what the thing actually is.

  13. Using my own reading of Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence” as a case study, thus far, I can conclude that reader-response rests heavily on culture and personal experiences. Kemal draws us into his life experiences spanning from childhood to adulthood—with Istanbul circa 1975—as the backdrop.

    For me, Pamuk constructs distance within the story by illuminating the very nature of Kemal. Kemal’s character, as it is offered, is itself distant, and this is the very key of how I’ve found myself reading the novel. The distance between readers and Kemal’s emotional experience occurs in different ways. One way being that the novel is self reflective, and continuously transports readers toward the Museum, a place that is itself real, but that also exists within the novel’ fictional world. The museum can be considered a diversion, holding more meaning and emotion than even the person who created it. Additionally, Kemal poetic in my view, and seems to tell the story in a way that he think people want to hear it. It is filled with emotion, yet lacks intensity. What Pamuk achieves here is forcing readers to react to why Kemal tells the story the way he does, as if the world in which the story takes place is too much for him to bear.

    Casanova’s investigation of literature as a world can help us in the future by reminding readers to reconcile how and why we read—to and for—what affect. That is, to refrain from limiting our readings (critiques) to seemingly genre-binding formulas.

    If we take “The Figure in the Carpet” by Henry James, and apply the Persian rug metaphor to “The Museum of Innocence,” “viewed casually or too close up,” the story appears to be about the self-consumed and love-sick Kemal in his home country with its restrictions, politics, and injustices just as any other place, but from another view, the story assumes more risks, tells endless stories within itself, and evolves into a set of rules for engaging with its literary devices (Casanova 73).

    Pamuk tends to record-keeping in terms of memory, which is of course, at times fickle, and by use of objects. Thus, record-keeping becomes a life-long task of a person, thing, or history, that is ever-changing and circumstantial. Pamuk’s record-keeping revolves around conscious memory, objects, and the memory of objects. “The Museum of Innocence” acts a repository of cultural artifacts—not only of the struggle in Turkey with Westernized ideologies vs traditional beliefs, bourgeoise, and everything in between, but also of the struggles of love and loss in that time and that place, which ultimately, it transcends. Love and loss are universal, despite its causes.

    Taking heed of Casanova’s statement, “battles over the definition of literature, over technical or formal transformations and innovations, on the whole have national literary space as their arena,” we may consider the undeniable consequences of Pamuk and his “dual position, inextricably national and international” (Casanova 81). The story lives both inside and outside, and is both independent and dependent on the literary space in the world that it assumes. (Yea, still working this all out in my head).

    I’ll conclude by saying that the novel and the museum are both apart from, and a part of one another. Both can be considered cultural artifacts employing different methods to translate ideas about literature and the vastness in which it dwells.

  14. Casanova’s discussion of “literary domination” is particularly interesting to me in concert with the prompt Kaitilin provided us last week for these readings. Casanova brings up the inherent issues in publication of literature and the power relations of authors and texts at the center and periphery of his “World of Letters”, stating that “The consequences of literary domination for the production, publication and recognition of texts require their own analysis. The inevitable primacy that literary studies accord to psychology, for instance…often hinders an account of the unnoticed structural constraints that impinge on a writer’s production of works, down to their choice of form, genre, language…” (Casanova 86). He goes onto describe this dominative process that impedes writers who exist in one of the “World of Letters” subordinate spaces. And while Casanova’s theory centers around national and international boundaries, in some I think it also applies to genres in much the same way. Reading this made me think of myself as a writer first and the specific effects Casanova’s literary domination has on genres in the so-called periphery world of literature. As a fan and writer of fantasy primarily, I know what it is to not have the works I love given recognition outside of their own periphery “sphere”, and my doubt at the “good” that this genre does in the world despite my passion for it. Further my descent into this rabbit hole, I began to think of my own writing and the recognition, or lack thereof, it may or may not receive based solely on subject area or genre, actual writing aside.

    Which then brings us to Kaitlin’s lens: If authors feel this “pressure” to write inside of the literary center, what does it say about the readership that dictates what exists at that center, at any particular moment? The forces that Casanova prescribes to have created this structure is very much rooted in publishing and economics – the novels that are modernized and given recognition are the ones published, translated, and celebrated by the world. But what about that moment gives root to the reaction of readers? And is it always shifting? I wonder what drew so many readers to “The Museum of Innocence” in the first place, as it is very much a “door halfway open” kind of novel, as I’ve described it to others. We only glimpse what Kemal wants us to see of himself, as my classmates pointed out in their posts. Kemal is at the periphery of his own story. I think that Pamuk eschews the trend of the “open book” protagonist gives the novel it’s narrative strength. By putting Kemal to the side of his own story, the “center” of the story becomes the emotional contradictions that frame the novel, which is one of the most powerful human experiences. We see it not through Kemal’s eyes, but through our own. I believe this is why international readers are so drawn to this novel, despite it’s geographic and cultural distance from us.

Comments are closed.