[-empyre-] Narrativity and Reading Regimes

Emmett Stinson stinsone at unimelb.edu.au
Mon Jun 14 14:18:35 EST 2010

To Steve:

Yes, I think you're right to note that Genette, particularly in his analysis
of paratexts, may be of use in these questions. The chapter 'Genre and
Interpretation' in John Frow's Genre, offers an incisive consideration of
the relationship between paratexts and genre, and perhaps might offer models
for investigating 'bookishness' as well, although several major questions
would remain, including how one might characterise the interaction between
genre and the book-as-form itself.

To Michael:

I think your point about about the encoding of devices is both insightful
and correct, especially when you consider reading regimes in relation to the
corporate sector more generally. I spent several years writing and editing
organisational communications, and the preferred forms (bullet-point lists,
tick boxes, executive summaries, and concise press releases with
attention-grabbing quotes that function as sound bites) all enable and
encourage hypertextual scanning, whether in print or on the web.

Effective mastery of this type of reading (as well as being able to write
for these kinds of texts) is, in this sense, a key vocational skill for most
people. (Nor is this kind of reading inherently bad, either. The world would
be a much worse place, for example, if stop signs employed a regime that
required immersive reading.) The worry is that the emphasis on this kind of
reading further entrenches the notions of exchange and efficiency that are
the hallmarks of neoliberal economics. In this sense, I think any critique
of these types of reading practices requires a larger systemic/economic

There is a strange final turn of the screw in such a reading, however.
Literary texts have, for decades now, been accused of privileging an elitist
'high cultural' ideology of the aesthetic. But if hypertextual scanning is
now (or is becoming) the dominant mode of reading, then literary texts
become simultaneously traditional and radical. The very emphasis on
immersive reading practices and traditional aesthetic value within literary
texts actually functions as a mode that opposes the exchange value of
economic rationalism.
Emmett Stinson
Lecturer, Publishing and Communications
School of Culture and Communication
The University of Melbourne
Parkville, Victoria, Australia 3010
Ph: 613-8344-3017 

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