I have redone my Prospectus to what I hope is a better outline of my essay.
Note: I revised my bibliography and have decided to eliminate Sherman, and to add Eco and Carriere.
Historical reading practices differ from modern practices, i.e. forms of digital reading, in that they require little to no journey for the reading material. While using google or other internet search sites to bring up a text on our screens, there is no need to physically interact with the outside world in our quest for knowledge. Byatt’s Possession works as a tool for this anti-digital reading in that it’s characters correspond with one another (specifically Ash and LaMotte, and Roland and Maud, of whom will be my essay’s main focus). Roland and Maud must physically get their hands on copies of Ash and LaMotte’s writing in order to understand their journeys and relationships with one another, that is, the very essence of the subject matter of the texts they are so eager to understand.
The journey for the reading material influences the characters in Byatt’s novel positively in terms of their desire to possess the texts themselves and the historical background behind them. They also allow for relationships to be built with each other as is the case with Maud and Roland who begin to understand themselves and each other on their journey to find Ash and LaMotte’s letters, developing a, for lack of a better term, romantic relationship with each other along the way. An important moment of self-discovery is when Maud, after years of refusing to read Ash and to accept that he may have had a hand in LaMotte’s writing, discovers that she has shared ancestry with him, arguably a stepping stone in her being able to be rid of her biased opinion of his and LaMotte’s writing. In having taken the journey to find the original copies of the letters, Maud was able to find these answers along the way. Of course the forms of media tools we have today were non-existent in the 80s and 90s, but had they been and had Roland and Maud employed them their experiences, their understanding and self-discovery, and their relationship would not have existed at all, or least to a lesser extent.
One point I wish to address is the fact that Byatt has written some of the correspondences with sentences that have been crossed out. The letters, having been written in the 19th century, are obviously handwritten and evidently they provide their readers (Roland and Maud) with a sense of their original, entire purpose. Though these crossed-out sentences are the result of their author having changed their mind in wishing to include them, without such Roland and Maud would be ignorant to the whole picture that is Ash and LaMotte’s relationship. Although the crossed out sections are a rather minor detail in the grand scheme of the novel, they allow for us to begin to see the importance of an original copy, for if the letters had hypothetically been emails written in a modern time, they would not include crossed-out sections and their readers would be ignorant to anything Ash or LaMotte had wanted to say in the heat of the moment. I will support this using Foucault’s piece on the importance of an author and of knowing who the author is and of their intent. I will also support this using Manguel’s “A History of Reading” and how this piece discussing the importance of what is written in a text, i.e. everything that was intended even if not desired to be shared in the end, as is the case in some of Ash and LaMotte’s correspondence.
Opening Paragraph and Thesis Statement: Byatt’s characters desire to possess their understanding and appreciation of literature through their journey to find the original correspondence between Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. It is through this physical journey that they are able develop relationships arguably not possible had their search been digital, and also to free themselves from any biased opinions of the authors they may have previously had, Maud’s refusal to accept Ash as an influence of LaMotte’s for example. Byatt’s novel acts as a tool for anti-modern reading practices as said practices may involve such bias. This is the case when the reader employs their preconceived notions of the author or subject; when the text’s author becomes less important to the reader than succeeding literary criticism; and finally when the author becomes absent and thus the reader may employ the criticism or theory of another in their place in order to make sense of the text.
– Byatt’s Possession
Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author”. Modern Literary Theory.
4th Ed. Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2001. p. 180-190. Print.
- to discuss different reading practices and to support my argument that the contemporary reader arguably moves far enough away from the text towards their own ideas of what a text should be and should provide that there author’s intent has been lost
Carriere, Jean- Claude, and Eco, Umberto. This Is Not the End of the
Book. London: Vintage, 2012. 1-35, 145-171. Print.
- to discuss the survival of a physical text and use it to build on this notion that there will always be purists who prefer the reality of the finding of a book over the quick steps to do so in the digital world, and that the author’s journey to producing the text is just as important as the text itself
Foucault, Michel. “What Is An Author?.” Language, Counter-Memory,
Practice. Donald F. Bouchard. Revised ed. New York: Cornell University
Press, 1977. 124-127. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://evans-
- to discuss the importance of an author in the first place as there are texts that have been circulated without knowledge of their author, and therefore the reading of it arguably becomes solely dependent on one’s experience of a text based on what others have argued about it in previous years
Gass, William H.. “Death of the Author.” Salmagundi. Robert Boyers.
Vol. 1. Saratoga Springs: Skidmore College, 1984. 6-10. Web. 20 Mar.
- used with Foucault to discuss that the absence of an author allows the reader to allocate the text’s habits to a different one, a theorist just as Lacan for example.
Manguel, Alberto. “The Silent Readers.” The History of Reading. 2nd ed.
Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1996. 50. Print.
- to discuss the importance of what is written in a text, i.e. everything that was intended even if not desired to be shared in the end
Todorov, Tzvetan. “Reading As Construction.” The Reader in the Text:
Essays on Audience and Interpretation. Susan R. Suleiman and Inge
Crosman Wimmers. Illustrated ed. Cambridge: University Press, 1980.
- with Manguel and Foucault to discuss the importance of the author and the intent of their writing