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This analytical part of my study is necessary, because theory, in literary studies, is nothing without applicability. Jane Austen Jane Austen is considered to be among the greatest moralists in the history of the English novel. Yet if one were to describe her moral views and values, the result would be rather trivial and basic: Of course, her work has been related to moral philosophers23 and to conduct books written for women Mergenthal ; however, the ethical quality of her novels can only be ade- quately explored by looking at her way of telling her stories, for ethics is, in her novels, related to aesthetics more so than in the works of most other novelists.

Reproaches to the younger boy from other persons in the room are of no avail, but suddenly she is relieved: The point- of-view technique is emphasized here by a syntax of suspense. In a remarkable instance of iconic structuring, the resolution of the relatively long sentence coincides with the moment of recognition. After this incident, Anne has mentally to process what happened; this is represented in a passage of internal focaliza- tion, beginning with a narrative description of her inner life: She could not even thank him.

The form of narrative report then shifts to free indirect style, as she tries to interpret the incident: The poignancy in the representation of the incident derives from the special situation in which Anne finds herself in the novel. Thus a small act of kindness on his part throws her into a tumult of conflicting emotions. I have bracketed the introductory sentence of narrative report: Ten minutes were enough to certify this. And, indeed, Anne soon realizes that Mr. Elliot is too good to be true, and thus it is hardly surprising that he ultimately turns out to be a hypocrite and an imposter.

The present study will focus on one moment in the novel. Maggie Verver, daughter of an American millionaire and art collector, is about to marry Amerigo, an impecunious Italian aristocrat known as the Prince or Principe. Crews, The Tragedy of Manners. Charlotte and Amerigo had previously had a liaison in Rome, which was discontinued because the lovers were too poor to marry. However, Maggie discovers the real nature of the relationship between Amerigo and Charlotte, and successfully pursues a plan of restoring the proper grouping of the couples. Her plan involves innocent yet ingenious strategies of pretense and lying.

The passage in question follows on an avowal of the lovers being true to each other: They were silent at first, only facing and faced, only grasping and grasped, only meeting and met. They vowed it, gave it out and took it in, drawn, by their intensity, more closely together. Then of a sudden, through this tightened circle, as at the issue of a narrow strait into the sea beyond, everything broke up, broke down, gave way, melted and mingled.

Their lips sought their lips, their pressure their response and their response their pressure; with a violence that had sighed itself the next moment to the longest and deepest stillnesses they passionately sealed their pledge. Yet there is a contradiction between the passage and its context, for Charlotte wants to convince herself that what she and her lover are doing is also for the benefit of their respective partners.

Immediately before the quoted passage she says: The two lovers feel a sense of freedom. Amerigo heightens this notion by using a simile in a passage written in free indirect style: He even fantasizes about a situation in which there has passed no time between his earlier happiness with Charlotte and the blissful future of their renewed relationship: The sense of the past revived for him nevertheless as it had not yet done: Assingham, who had made the match between her and Verver.

Thus one cannot appreciate the powerful description of the love scene in question without unease. Here, however, the epic heroism of the ancient text is replaced by ordinary occurrences in the fictional Dublin of the early twentieth century. Yet, in contrast to works such as these, where the adulteresses are the central characters, the focus in Ulysses is on the deceived husband. The passage to be analyzed comes from the Calypso section of the novel: Letting the blind up by gentle tugs halfway his backward eye saw her glance at the letter and tuck it under her pillow. Likewise, it cannot be argued that ethics, as a philosophical discipline, addresses moral problems in an abstract way and on a higher level, whereas narrative fiction represents them concretely, and on a lower level, and in a form which is closer to the real world of experience.

On the contrary, if one omits explicitly didactic texts, the literary representation of ethics is a phenomenon sui generis. It opens a dimension of morality which emerges in this way only in narration and remains beyond the reach of philoso- phical abstraction and propositional discourse.

The Interdependence of Ethics and Aesthetics in Narrative Art This study has argued that narrative art can claim authority in the sphere of ethics, albeit in a different way than philosophy. The Odyssey has proved to be a revealing text in this respect, insofar as storytelling emerges in this work as a means of self-constitution, a phenomenon which has become a topos in modern theories of narration. As the stories in the Odyssey paradigmatically show, morality emerges in narration under the condition of the aesthetic form of the story being told. This kind of procedure may be indispensable as ancil- lary work; however, it does not belong to the center of an ethics of narration.

In the analytical part of this study, I have shown that moral aspects of human relationships can be represented in the novel in ways which are inaccessible to other forms of discourse.

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This is why it may seem difficult to develop ethical narratology into a systematic science. But it is encouraging that Berning has, under the term Critical Ethical Narratology, successfully attempted to elucidate value construction in literary non-fiction. Scholars should be aware that an ethics of narration can be adequately realized only if it takes storytelling seriously as an art and focusses on narrative technique, which contributes both to giving expres- sion to moral issues and problems and alerting readers cognitively to the com- plexities of human life and relationships.

The moral substance of narrative texts cannot be expressed in an abstract form; in other words, it cannot be articulated in the form of philosophical argument and proposition. As was noted at the beginning of this study, if it were possible to formulate in abstract terms the moral meaning of a fictional narrative and pinpoint the values it presents in the form of norms or principles, there would be no need for narrative art. Narrative art opens a dimension of human life and human relationships which is closed to the disciplines of philosophy and psy- chology.

Works Cited Austen, Jane.

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Towards a Critical Ethical Narratology: The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction. U of California P, It is his aim to expand the concept of cognition beyond that of knowledge and thus to open philosophical discourse for literary forms of representation. See his work Erkenntnis Cogni- tion , The Tragedy of Manners.

A Study of Immigrant Discourse. John Benjamins Publishing Company, A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey. Second Series 33 Walter de Gruyter, Hampe, Michael, Die Lehren der Philosophie. Ham- burg, Unpublished Master Thesis. Narrative and the Self. Jane Austen and the Enlightenment. The Negotiation of Values in Fiction. University of Nebraska Press, Frauenrollen und der englische Roman um Das narrativische Paradigma in den Kulturwissenschaften. Mieth, Dietmar, Dichtung, Glaube und Moral. The Ethics of Reading: Empathie, Sympathie und Narra- tion.

Strategien der Rezeptionslenkung in Prosa, Drama und Film. From Leavis to Levinas by Andrew Gibson. Essays on Philosophy and Literature. Living to Tell about It. A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration. James Phelan, and Peter Rabinowitz. Henry James and Modern Moral Life. Lying and Poetry from Homer to Pindar. Falsehood and Deception in Archaic Greek Poetics. U of Michigan P, Procli Diadochi in Platonis rem publicam commentarii. Von Werken und Formen. U of Chicago P, Das Selbst als ein Anderer. Die Ethik der Fiktion und der englische Gegenwartsroman.

Towards a General Typology. Henry James and the Morality of Fiction. Ethik und Moral als Problem der Literatur und Literatur- wissenschaft. Duncker und Humblot, Theory of Mind and the Novel. Ohio State UP, The persuasive power of narratives, which has been demonstrated in a host of psychological experiments, offers a rewarding field of research for literary studies in general and ethical criticism in particular. If fictional as well as factual narratives can change the beliefs of readers, then they are ethically meaningful to disseminate values, emotional dispositions, and cognitive prac- tices.

Building on recent research in psychology and literary studies, this article explores in three steps the ethical value of fictional narratives. First, the persua- sive power of narratives is discussed from a cognitive perspective, which in- cludes consideration of the ethical consequences of taking the perspectives of others. Second, these insights are connected to a delineation of narrative con- ventions, which can foster the kind of deeper understanding associated with altruistic behavior.

In the third part, pertinent narrative strategies are discussed from an ethical perspective. A brief conclusion summarizes the most important results and sketches some fields that merit exploration in future studies of ethical criticism. But even though the persuasive power of narrative is taken for granted and exploited in fields such as marketing and politics, literary scholars have as yet been reluctant to acknowledge this potential of narrative.

If narratives can alter the beliefs of readers, then they are important tools for spreading values, emotional dispositions, and cognitive practices. This does not mean, however, that fictional narratives are necessarily moral; instead, they can be used for myriad sorts of im moral purposes. In the following, I will clarify the question concerning the ethical importance of narrative conventions by combining recent research in psychology with narrative theory. I argue that it is worthwhile to take the persuasive power of fiction seriously by practicing an ethical criticism that acknowledges the impor- tance of form, and, at the same time, developing criteria for evaluating the ethics of fictional works.

At first sight, these results seem surprising: Yet this is exactly what studies have found, and these initial findings have subsequently been replicated and broadened in scope since the end 1 Though scholars such as Jay Hillis Miller, Paul Hernadi or Wayne C. Booth assume that fiction does have an ethical importance, they do not explicitly deal with the persuasive power of fiction, define it, explore the reasons for this potential of fictional stories or relate it to formal conven- tions. Moreover, it is not just factual stories that can persuade readers: The morals and values embedded in literary works matter.

In their overview of recent research in this area, Green and Donahue show that these morals should be taken seriously and questioned with regard to the kind of ethics that are spread via particular kinds of fiction. To date, no definitive study has explained why stories known to be figments of the imagination can have such a potential for persuasion. The suspension of disbelief, thus, naturally accom- panies the process of reading good narratives.

Contrary to the Romanticist belief that the reading of fiction involves the willing suspension of disbelief, it requires more cognitive effort to suspend belief and critically scrutinize the plausibility or correctness of what has been read see Gilbert; Schreier In the following, I will concentrate on the second function that reading, particularly of fictional stories, can fulfill, and I will propose a few hypotheses concerning the relationships between the two. In order to explore which narrative conventions can evoke sensitive under- standing of others, it is necessary to first delineate the cognitive and affective processes involved in this kind of understanding.

Related feelings, which are connected to pro-social behavior, have also been referred to as sympathy, pity, compassion, and sympathetic distress Batson, Ahmad, and Lishner ; they should be distinguished from the kind of empathic sharing involved in perspective taking. Both processes are, in different combinations, practiced in interactive encounters and in the reading of fiction; in short, the understanding of people and the understanding of fictional characters bear many resemblances.

Such an elaboration of implicit personality theories is a precondition for pro-social action, since one must under- stand the needs and feelings of others before one can put that knowledge into practice. Nonetheless, there is at least one kind of perspective-taking that can be practiced in reading fiction and that has been shown to correlate with altruistic behavior. In contrast, imagining oneself in the position of another is not necessa- rily related to altruistic behavior.

Several conditions must be met in order to adopt such a perspective, and I argue that fictional narratives are particularly apt to fulfil these. As far as literature is concerned, the obstacles blocking perspective taking in real-life situations are negligible: The combination of these factors allows the reader to regulate his or her own perspective and to imagine what the characters feel and think, all while remaining aware of his or her differences from the characters.

Reading fiction thus affords a perfect opportunity for practicing perspective taking that is, due to its manifold inherent difficulties, precarious in interactive situations see Decety and Sommerville; and Rameson and Lieberman. This is also linked to the persuasive power of fiction: Interestingly, two factors related to the story content have been disproven: Apparently, stories written by canonical or bestselling authors have had more impact than those produced by psychologists for the purposes of testing Green — However, I would argue that, from the perspective of literary studies, one can point to a number of narrative conventions that encourage perspective taking.

It is worth emphasizing that these conventions cannot deter- mine how individual readers respond to a text. Characters like Harry Potter or the hobbit Frodo would thus meet the criterion of perceived realism. Within their respective fic- tional worlds, the characters act in a way that is plausible to the extent that they correspond to current folk psychology. This fits in well with the requirements for the imagine-other perspective: This does not mean, of course, that in order for characters to be perceived as lifelike they must be models of reason and internal consistency: Indeed, it could even be argued that the most lifelike characters are those that are complex and carry internal contradictions.

Moreover, genre conventions, individual preferences, and the cognitive abilities of readers for instance, chil- dren as opposed to adults each play a large role in defining what is plausible within the frame of the fictional world. This allows the reader to follow and empathically share the mental processes and emotions of fictional characters, and thereby reduces the distance between reader and characters. These comments can fulfil a wide spectrum of functions: The second provides knowledge about the characters and offers insight into their respective personalities and current mental states, thereby allowing the reader to understand characters and adopt their perspectives without actually following their thought processes.

The second provides knowledge about the characters and can, in turn, induce readers to feel for them. Both aspects are intri- cately related as far as the taking of perspectives is concerned, but they proceed via different means. The third, and equally time-honored, mode of heightening the interest and empathy of readers is that of setting a character into a precarious position. In order to feel with and for characters, they must be in a situation that potentially allows for positive as well as negative endings.

In such situations, the reader is prone to evaluate the future development of events in light of his or her own wishes as well as those of the characters. It must be emphasized, however, that each of the three conventions discussed above can, by the same token, be employed in order to increase the distance between character and reader. In particular, contemporary and multi-perspective works fre- quently present abhorrent, disgusting, or, at least, undesirable feelings that the reader understands though they evoke negative emotions instead of empathic sharing.

In this respect, the character of a serial killer may serve as focalizer in precarious situations, with the reader hoping that the character will be apprehended in time. The process of sharing thoughts and emotions can therefore be reduced to a merely rational process, one which evokes disgust and antipathy rather than empathy. When it comes to literary conventions, there is no form-to- function mapping: I wish to argue that increasing the reader-character distance is of crucial importance for the process of perspective taking. This is rare, however, even as far as the empathic sharing of thoughts and feelings is concerned.

This process consists of an oscillation between two quite different cognitive activities on the part of the reader: This second process is intricately connected to an overall assess- ment of the situation and to the moral positioning of readers; it is closely related to questions of ethics. The Ethics of Form: Narrative Strategies from an Ethical Point of View So far, I have stressed that the adoption of the imagine-other perspective is ethically desirable. This corresponds to the Western tradition of appreciating empathy, sympathy, and the power of literature to evoke these feelings.

As the pro-social associations of the imagine-other perspective evidence, there is good reason to follow this tradition, to which authors such as George Eliot have contributed. With regard to the ethical value of literature, it is advantageous to differenti- ate between two aspects: On the one hand, there is the reduction of the distance between readers and characters, and the adoption of the imagine-other perspec- tive. On the other hand, it is important to emphasize the ethical significance of distancing devices that contri- bute to an awareness of the differences between readers and characters.

Especially in postmodern times, it is necessary to consider the experience of alterity, of the otherness of others. According to the French philosopher Alain Badiou 41 , the acceptance of alterity and the radical difference between oneself and everybody else including oneself is a cornerstone of a theory of ethics. This view is compa- tible with a Levinas-inspired ethics, which has moved away from the prescriptive dimension of traditional values and towards a more tentative and open postmo- dern ethics.

Because we live in a society marked by multiplicity, heterogeneity, and alterity, literary works have an ethical value that transcends the practice of the imagine-other perspective, for they not only enable us to appreciate this kind of heterogeneity and complexity, but also help us to accept otherness, to refrain from stereotyping and categorizing others, and to abandon the insistence on closure. This does not imply a devaluation of the kind of perspective taking described above; rather, it makes it possible to appreciate the ethical value of narrative strategies that induce both sensitive understanding of lifelike characters and the acknowledgement of instability, openness, heterogeneity, and complexity.

It therefore seems promising to briefly consider aesthetic devices that in- crease the distance between readers and characters. Practicing empathy is only part of a more complex cognitive process as far as altruistic behaviour is con- cerned: Moreover, distancing strategies are closely linked to the aesthetic quality of literature. Defamiliarizing devices, which slow the reading process and enhance the dis- tance of what is being described to the reader who must puzzle out what is meant can also open the space necessary for questioning stereotypes and pre- judices and for affectively engaging with characters who may initially seem strange.

However, defamiliarizing devices do not always lead to cognitive closure; from an ethical perspective, what seems to be even more important is the flex- ibility and openness such devices require of readers. For example, it is frequently impossible to categorize characters; especially in modernist works, the first description of a figure often amounts to nothing more than hints about their opinions, attitudes, or dispositions. Moreover, the dynamics of the reading process must be taken into account: In contrast to our routines in everyday life, in reading fiction our first impressions are often questioned and need to be revised.

In many cases, it is possible in retrospect to recognize former misunderstandings and to reinterpret events in light of these new insights; in other cases, the uncertainty concerning the evaluation of a character remains. Some literary texts necessitate the acknowl- edgement of complexity and otherness as well as only partial comprehension; they deny cognitive closure and complete comprehension.

Shifts in focalization, which call for rapid adjustment to different points of view, can enhance the effects of defamiliarization. This differen- tiation is also important for understanding the cognitive and the ethical value of reading fiction. This implies that the reader must choose which characters to empathize with and which to main- tain distance from. Various other aesthetic devices can also guide the processes of perspective taking.

It is infeasible to discuss them here, as an effective and detailed account would have to explore, among other things, conventions concerning the handling of time and the importance of ambiguities and gaps or blanks Iser 67, Multi-perspective works especially necessitate the interpretation, evaluation, and weighting of different perspectives. Readers are encouraged to accept alterity and heterogeneity. They practice a process that, from an ethical perspective, is arguably as valuable as adopting the perspectives of others.

In literary works, this process is guided by distancing and engaging devices. The complexity and denial of closure inspired by the use of narrative forms can thus induce readers to comprehend contradictory positions, thereby rendering alterity more acceptable and moving towards an ethics of alterity. Unreli- able narration is per se a problematic narrative device as far as the ethics of a novel are concerned. After all, unreliable narrators usually tell their story from their own point of view; particularly those sincere, but in some way misguided, deviant or mentally ill character narrators that Booth and many others dealt with allow us insight into their thought processes and justify their behaviors in accordance with their own norms, trying to encourage the reader to empathize with them.

The relation between ethics and unreliable narrators with questionable norms and values is thus fraught with that the villain of his novel Clarissa published in actually evoked the sympathy of many of his intended readers. I owe this reference concerning the wide spectrum between the bonding and distancing devices in the same narrative text to the editors of this volume. On the one hand, the confrontation with radically different views may establish this kind of fiction as a valuable vehicle for ethics, because it evokes an experience of alterity.

After all, cognitively following the thoughts of narrators or characters does not necessarily imply either affective sharing or a loss of critical distance on the part of the reader. A similar, perhaps even more important, kind of ethical reflection can be inspired by multi-perspective works featuring heterogeneous perspectives that can neither be reconciled with each other nor discarded as irrelevant or simply wrong. Such novels, which require openness and acceptance of ambiguity and complexity on the part of readers, implicitly raise the question of whether there are absolute ethical values.

The same function can be fulfilled by novels that include several narrators or present only a particular point of view while hinting at other, equally valid ones. The topic certainly merits further attention, but I would like to suggest that three interrelations espe- cially warrant exploration. Second, shifts from categorization to individuation and the discarding of stereotyping a particular character may engender a change of attitude towards particular stereotypes or an awareness of the problems of stereotyping in general.

Third, taking the perspec- tives of characters and temporarily adopting their values and traits may lead to a reflection on and appraisal of these values and thereby result in the dissemination of values. The ethical impor- tance of literature has been stressed by scholars in both Western and Eastern countries.

Rarely, however, has it been attempted to consider insights from psychology and cognitive studies in order to link the use of particular constella- tions of narrative conventions to specific kinds of ethical values. While the effects of particular narrative conventions always depend on their specific combination and weighting as well as on the content and context of the particular work, two aspects merit consideration with regard to the analysis of the ethical value of 6 I owe this suggestion to Shang Biwu and Nie Zhenzhao.

However, many questions remain open, especially as far as the effects of the arrangement of specific narrative strategies are concerned. A framework for understanding such combinations has been sketched here, yet this could be further detailed and modified in any number of ways worthy of exploration. Which constellations of particular devices reduce the distance between reader and character and invite the reader to feel with and for the character in question?

To what extent are these combinations subject to historical change, what role is played by cultural values, and is it possible to relate specific constellations to specific genres? And, last but not least, what role do specific cultural models play as far as concerns, for instance, features about the contents of the work or the depiction of the characters? How do characteristics such as physical attractiveness, generally ideal personality traits, and emotional dispositions relate to the use of formal conventions? The number of open research questions could daunt scholars into surrender- ing before even making any attempt.

However, there are good reasons for endea- voring to address these problems. The persuasive power of fiction is a fact: At a moment when the legitimization of literary scholarship has become an urgent problem in many countries, the promise of such a benefit is particularly stimulat- ing and justifying. An Essay on the Under- standing of Evil. Turia und Kant, Klein, and Lori Highberger. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Evolution and the Nature of Narrative. Jonathan Gottschall and David S.

Northwestern Uni- versity Press Kulturen der Empathie Cultures of Empathy. Busselle, Rick, and Helena Bilandzic. A Model of Narrative Comprehension and Engagement. How, When and Why? Decety, Jean, and Jerry A. A Social Cognitive Neuroscience View. How Reading Fiction Transforms the Self. The Event of Literature. Willie van Peer, and Seymour Chatman. State U of New York P, A View from Cognitive Psychology.

The Moral Turn of Postmodernism. Gerhard Hoffmann and Alfred Hornung. Brock, and Geoff F. The Role of Transportation into Narrative Worlds. Markman, William Klein, and Julie Suhr. Habermas, Tilman, and Verena Diel. Event Severity and Narrative Perspectives. Perspektivische Interaktion im Roman. A Coevolutionary Perspective on Imaginative Worldmaking. Commercialization of Human Feeling. The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion.

Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Empathy and the Novel. Willie van Peer and Seymour Chatman. Moll, Henrike, and Andrew N. Level 2 Perspective-Taking at 36 Months of Age. Jutta Zimmermann and Britta Salheiser. Narrative Attempts at Claiming Authority. Reading Fictions, Changing Minds: The Cognitive Value of Fiction. Review of General Psychology 3 Emotional Experience and Its Skills. Living to Tell about It: Gerrig, and Daniel S. Rameson, Lian, and Matthew D. A Social Cognitive Neuroscience Ap- proach. The Dynamics of Mental-Model Construction. Berlin and New York: In Pursuit of Narrative Dynamics.

Lemon and Marion J. U of Nebraska P, Review of Literature and Implications for Future Research. Understanding the Processing of Narrative Persuasion. Tooby, John, and Leda Cosmides. A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism 30 These include a rabbinic formula about the category-status of the material text, which among other things demarcates religious from secular.

The essay distills an argument from a larger project, To Make the Hands Impure: Art and Ethical Adventure, the Difficult and the Holy Fordham UP, , which considers the question of how reading may be said to possess a certain ritual sensibility embodied by the ethical situation of the book lying in the hands of its readers. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. You want to be fooled. In this respect, however, the schema of Pledge-Turn,- Prestige has yet another story to tell, as an ars poetica for the workings of art, generally.

Architecture, for example, stakes a pledge on the transformation of space and surrounding element into social structure and habitation. Music stakes a pledge on mechanical waves of pressure realized in ordered configurations of frequency and pitch, duration, and interval that enable song and rhythmic pulse. The plastic arts stake a pledge on the materiality of stone and wood, glass and textile, and pigment and canvas rendered into design, pattern, image, and form. Dance stakes a pledge on the human body posed and mobilized through perfor- mance and social contact. Cinema stakes a pledge on the illusion of movement generated by twenty-four still frames per second not to mention the bricolage of those cutter-magicians known as editors , and, like theater, it stakes a pledge on the stylized impersonation of person.

Literary and verbal representation stakes a pledge on language as both artifact and expression, and on the uncanny circuit of address between writers and readers. And each pledge in the history of these traditions, crafts, and practices has a corresponding turn: Reading and the Restless Hand 59 Likewise, for each, there is—by something being brought back, smuggled in, or shown always to have been there even in disguise—the third act, the prestige.

Art presents itself, wills some change in form or the production of some effect or consequence, and finally re-materializes either itself or its objects. Mimesis-as-prestige is costly, for nothing is ever really brought back whole once it has been pledged. Manipulated and subject to sleight, the object-in-hand never really stays un-altered. My essay centers on this very quotidian economy, the everyday mimetic circuit of exchange that we take for granted—even we scholars, archivists, and professional book-handlers whose vocation is to read.

Regardless of what exactly Levinas means here—and I will return to him shortly— I invite the reader to think about the composite term hand-book in the naively corporeal sense: By this point, the title of my essay has perhaps become somewhat clearer. I have begun it in this manner for three reasons. Secondly, I want to suggest that this formula, as in my claim about its importability as a kind of ars poetica for the workings of aesthetic practices generally, also applies to the enterprise of commentary and criticism—as its own sort of conjuring and stagecraft.

It is to describe it as if literature were music or art, and as if one could sing or paint criticism. Again, but for the first time: All critics do this, but the writer-critic, wanting to be both faithful critic and original writer, does it acutely, in a flurry of trapped loyalties. The reverse of the statement would be more correct: Reading and the Restless Hand 61 communicative and communal myth of itself; their function, as philosopher Jean Luc Nancy ascribes to literary art itself at its most critical, is to interrupt Nancy, The Inoperative Community 43 ff.

The third, and most immediate, reason for my beginning thus is that the formula of Pledge-Turn-Prestige has been repurposed here as an armature on which to sculpt this essay, which following these preliminaries will assume a three-part structure. In this way, an organizing concern for the performative ethics of criticism, in craft and artificing, reveals its own hand. Tulp is directinging its collective attention.

For the book alone allows the body to be deciphered and invites the passage from the interior to the exterior. Sebald comments on this seeming anomaly in The Rings of Saturn 16— The critic Pleshette DeArmitt glosses Kofman similarly: This is much more than a shift in perspective—it is an occultation: Lawrence Wechsler, for example, in an essay written in , strongly contests such an interpretation: Nonsense—though, admittedly, a peculiarly self-referential art-academic, specialized-tome- generating sort of nonsense.

Just look at the picture. For what a marvel of motility it is—with its capacity for compression and extension, for flex and repose, grip and rotation. The hand in itself is a veritable miracle…. This is a painting, then, about looking at hands, about vision and malleability—about the fundamentals of painting itself. Either the book is the final object of internal gaze, which the interposed hand interrupts; or the gazes at the hand cannot help but extend farther forward, to the book behind it.

The line of sight linking them also, of necessity, coordinates them.

Leger(e)demain: Reading and the Restless Hand | Adam Zachary Newton - ubusopab.tk

Indeed, as Keller herself notes about the material fate of her own Bible: The aggadic passages begins this way: Le geste de Raba est bizarre: That was the degree to which he forgot himself in study. Many of you are undoubtedly thinking, with good reason, that at this very moment, I am in the process of rubbing the text to make it spurt blood—I rise to the challenge. Has anyone ever seen a reading that was anything other than this effort carried out on a text?

One must, by rubbing, remove this layer which corrodes them. I think you would find this way of proceeding natural. Raba, in rubbing his foot, was giving plastic expression to the intellectual work he was involved in. I mention Levinas here, in connection with the Helen Keller example, specifically to provide an initial example of the book- in-hand even if Levinas seems to concentrate on the foot-in-hand, or the foot-in- the-other-hand.

But on either side of the fulcrum between mimesis and exegesis, reading remains fundamentally tactile: I will offer a few examples from a somewhat different textual tradition. As soon as this volume began to circulate, Mr. And so, Levinas surely does massage the Talmudic text here, which in its plain sense more likely suggests that Rava was sitting on his hand, and thus drawing blood by grinding it as opposed to the more provocative image of a frictional, restless hand. Intention and Method, J. Reading and the Restless Hand 65 literature I have since met with, speckled all over with ironmould, and having various specimens of the insect world smashed between their leaves.

My favorites came from the school library. They were distributed in the lower classes. The teacher would call my name, and the book then made its way from bench to bench; one boy passed it on to another, or else it traveled over the heads until it came to rest with me, the student who had raised his hand. Its pages bore traces of the fingers that had turned them.

The bit of corded fabric that finished off the binding, and that stuck out above and below, was dirty. But it was the spine, above all, that had had things to endure—so much so, that the two halves of the cover slid out of place themselves, and the edge of the volume formed ridges and terraces. Hanging on its pages, however, like Indian summer on the branches of the trees, were sometimes fragile threads of a net in which I had once become tangled when learning to read. Both scenes— negatively, in the first instance, and with more emulative force in the second— illustrate what I mean by transfer or transitivity.

Finally, similarly palpably yet more grotesquely, what follows is a passage from a newspaper article about an heirloom of dubious distinction: But what added to her anxiety was her belief that the book was a contagion, that its gold-leafed pages would defile her should her fingers brush against it by accident when she was searching for another book on the shelf. However, the next section offers quite a different story, and is counterintui- tive in the extreme.

In this story, the tradeoff involving both mimesis and exegesis is a line that marks one kind of text-culture or reading practice from another, a sign that registers canonical inclusion or exclusion, sanctity as opposed to mundanity, defilement versus consecration. Like the object-in-hand noted earlier that never really remains unaltered, the book-in-hand of this example concen- trates the very force of alteration. These categories distin- guished, according to character and degree, objects vessels, clothes, and houses, for example and persons in the Torah as either ritually clean or unclean: Reading and the Restless Hand 67 situated on a fault line between life and death, or between integral and particu- late.

Correlatively, human hands themselves were also accorded a special status according to their propensity to busy themselves with things of every sort. Strangely enough, however, included among contaminant articles and objects is the material status of scripture itself. Such classification ensured that these inscriptions would not be handled casually and would be accorded the proper respect commanded by their qedushah, or holiness. And yet, counterintuitively, holy books possessed the power to taint persons, not vice versa.

Scholars have been understandably piqued by the linguistic apotropaism that thus transforms defilement into a sign of sanctity.


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An etiology for this peculiar reversal is offered in a tractate of the Talmud, which foregrounds storage places for Torah scrolls in the Mishnaic period early first through early third centuries C. The customary practice was to stow them with terumah, sanctified grain, since both were considered ritually holy. Could books that did not mention the name of God such as Song of Songs and The Book of Esther—or that skirted non-Jewish philosophies Ecclesiastes be included alongside the Torah and the Prophets as part of the Biblical text corpus? Did they refer to the ideas spoken within the book, or to the words of the book when spoken, or to the book itself as a physical object, or to all of these?

Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity, But the physical is still a baseline. In the world of ceremonial practice, for example, a sefer Torah is a consecrated artifact accorded maximal dignity and modesty: The interdiction against casual contact accords with an entire halakhic protocol regulating the proper handling of ritual texts.

By exten- sion, sefarim books with religious content are accorded their own elaborate de jure apparatus of reverential comportment, which, not coincidentally, calls pre- cise attention to their vulnerability. When a sefer falls, it must be reverently kissed upon being picked up; and when it becomes no longer usable, it must be put aside in a safe place or buried in the ground; it may not be burned or discarded. If stacked, sefarim are placed in order of rising qedusha: Pentateuch on top of Prophets, and Writings on top of Talmud volumes, on top of prayer books, etc. For a mere point or tangent, in this reckoning, inevitably expands with the wish to press further and touch more: I will pursue the first question, about contamination, and defer for a moment the second, about hands and touch.

On contemporary Cuban Jewry, see Abel R.

Returning to Jewish Cuba. Reading and the Restless Hand 71 the prayer services at the synagogue in Havana: It also suggests a transferential property of exposition and commentary inasmuch as a Torah scroll or canonized scripture does not exist secluded from bodily human contact—an inert totem or untouchable sacral object—but, on the contrary, is imbued with touch as the sanctifying effect of transitivity for reading eyes, reciting mouths, listening ears, and holding hands.

What is so singular about the combination of hand and book, each its own metonym of the human, the two together conducting a circuit of tactile, cognitive, and affective energies? This returns us to the second question I left suspended: At the end of Otherwise Than Being; Or, Beyond Essence, Levinas calls such taken-for-grantedness to account in one of his most gem-like formules: If a Torah scroll can join the commu- nity of persons and thus, by itself, serve to fulfill the statutory mandate of communal prayer, then perhaps we too easily construe our relation to the texts we bear in hand, the texts that accompany us, side-by-side, marking the seam between, on one hand, corporeal, worldly event and, on the other, the enigma of tact, in the doubled sense of touch and regard.

This intimacy between person and page is captured by medievalist Valerie Allen in direct connection with the Levinasian hermeneutic of sollicitation, of an agitated and agitating text, an integumentum or skin that solicits reading as rubbing. Knuth and edited by Olivier Joseph. Biographical treatments include J. Reading and the Restless Hand 73 Nonetheless, what I have generally called an ethics of reading situates itself exactly at this baseline phenomenal level.

Even as I broach such a phrase, however, I am mindful of a caveat passed along by Charles Altieri that, once heard, is hard to ignore: For literary critics at least, this embarrassment can, or should, stem from taking ourselves as spokespersons for self-congratulatory values in reading that are extremely difficult to state in any public language. In literary studies, the ethical turn, as it has been called, has been revolving for a while: Injury and the Ethics of Reading. Nor does it concern itself with whether a text is licit or illicit, or virtuous and thus advanta- geous for its readers , or else somehow deleterious objectionable on some moral ground and thus disadvantageous.

Human consciousness is always, for Hardy, embodied human consciousness. All states of being, not just overt, physical activity but even what appear to be forms of physical inactivity like reading or perceiving or feeling-inevitably entail reciprocal jostling with the world. The material record of the interaction between man and world often survives the interaction itself: But with that dialectic between concussiveness and largesse as specifically ethical correlates for the act of reading, I will now pivot to the third and concluding section of this article, the Prestige, where the magician, artist, or critic supposedly brings something back.

That something is still the book-in-hand, the one we must rub to arrive at the life it conceals—even if in contact it becomes a somewhat different book. For once pledged, nothing truly remains un-altered. It has long been a matter of national custom for public monuments to the dead—in particular, those to victims of collective calamity—to display their names in memorialization. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the 58, names of American soldiers killed in action in the Southeast Asia theater of operations are etched chronologically into the granite wall according to the casualty dates.

Reading and the Restless Hand 75 Oklahoma City Memorial, the names inscribed on empty chairs are grouped according to the floors where the people were located at the moment of the bombing, and also according to the blast pattern. Other memorials list names in the most common and democratic manner: This is its feat of leger e demain, and its prestige.

Around the perimeter of the two colossal cubic voids that mark the footprints of the destroyed towers—each of which are ringed by waterfalls cascading into a sunken pool that encloses a smaller, central draining pool—is a bronze balustrade of five-foot by ten-foot panels on which are inscribed the names of the 2, victims from ninety countries of the attacks on September 11, and February 26, Each name is handfinished.

Name adjacency depends on patterns of affiliation. So complex was the entire arrangement that an algorithm was required to sort the multiple permutations of nearness. But a casual visitor is free to absorb, intone, litanize the names as a pure collectivity, not so differently from how those names are publicly recited on each anniversary: There is another way, however, in which they can be read and thus individuated: That is, just as the restless hand that reads these names could be said to perform an ethics of reading, so rhetoricizing it as a scene of reading among a community of readers also limns an ethics of criticism.

The rubbing itself solicits rubbing. Reading and the Restless Hand 77 witnesses, do we even attest to the witnessing in any visible, accountable way? For is that not one of the cathartic purposes of an artwork, and a reason why we raise monuments to the dead: In the face of such demurrals, I want to propose another set of possible consequences. Beyond affect or pathos, beyond spontaneity defended and preserved, we are given the chance to enact something by being asked to make connections, even if the traces are ultimately ineffable. In reading the names engraved upon the National September 11 Memorial, we do more than just record them: While one is not asked to sign an affidavit after visiting the memorial, one can still opt to touch and physicalize it to a greater degree of permanence, namely, by penciling it—as is common when one needs to retrieve lost information.

Marks, and Mark Patterson. This dialectical yet also tactile movement of inscription re-inscribed by an ethic of reading is something I trace in separate chapters on Levinas, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Stanley Cavell, a triumvirate of ethical philosophers I first braided together in Narrative Ethics and whom I revisit in To Make the Hands Impure as three kinds of readers, each drawn by or to a particular genre: A series of tropes organizes the constellation of chapters, functioning as both structural armature and cladding. What invites the hand into movement and contact with the bronze parapets at the National September 11 Memorial is the regress of name to person to material surface—each element, both explicably and inexplic- ably, standing for the other.

But the magic process by which writing becomes altered reading, the way it both marks and invites marking, and solicits tact—touch and regard—is what explains the transformative move from eye to restless hand, and the turning of its pledge into an always-receding prestige. Works Cited and Consulted Ajzenstat, Oona. Hebrew, Greek, and Linguistic Justice. September 21, , 2: Davis, and Kenneth Womack. U of Virginia P, An Island Called Home: Berlin Childhood around Brooks, Peter with Hilary Jewett Eds. Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media. Sheffield Phoenix Press, Chartier, Rogier, and J.

From the Text to the Reader. The Biopolitics of Emerging Technologies. When approaching fiction from an ethical viewpoint, one should consider those characters who are morally positive as well as those who are morally negative, those who are praiseworthy and those who are blame- worthy, and their respective actions and motivations. For Rorty, suffering is a central term.

According to Rorty, art and moral sensitivity are connected inseparably. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that representation of evil is generally more exciting and fascinating than that of goodness. Indeed, depiction of the shifts and tricks and pranks of rogues belongs to the delights of more than picaresque fiction alone. This analytical part of my study is necessary, because theory, in literary studies, is nothing without applicability.

Jane Austen Jane Austen is considered to be among the greatest moralists in the history of the English novel. Yet if one were to describe her moral views and values, the result would be rather trivial and basic: Of course, her work has been related to moral philosophers23 and to conduct books written for women Mergenthal ; however, the ethical quality of her novels can only be ade- quately explored by looking at her way of telling her stories, for ethics is, in her novels, related to aesthetics more so than in the works of most other novelists.

Reproaches to the younger boy from other persons in the room are of no avail, but suddenly she is relieved: The point- of-view technique is emphasized here by a syntax of suspense. In a remarkable instance of iconic structuring, the resolution of the relatively long sentence coincides with the moment of recognition. After this incident, Anne has mentally to process what happened; this is represented in a passage of internal focaliza- tion, beginning with a narrative description of her inner life: She could not even thank him.

The form of narrative report then shifts to free indirect style, as she tries to interpret the incident: The poignancy in the representation of the incident derives from the special situation in which Anne finds herself in the novel. Thus a small act of kindness on his part throws her into a tumult of conflicting emotions. I have bracketed the introductory sentence of narrative report: Ten minutes were enough to certify this. And, indeed, Anne soon realizes that Mr.

Elliot is too good to be true, and thus it is hardly surprising that he ultimately turns out to be a hypocrite and an imposter. The present study will focus on one moment in the novel. Maggie Verver, daughter of an American millionaire and art collector, is about to marry Amerigo, an impecunious Italian aristocrat known as the Prince or Principe.

Crews, The Tragedy of Manners. Charlotte and Amerigo had previously had a liaison in Rome, which was discontinued because the lovers were too poor to marry. However, Maggie discovers the real nature of the relationship between Amerigo and Charlotte, and successfully pursues a plan of restoring the proper grouping of the couples.

Her plan involves innocent yet ingenious strategies of pretense and lying. The passage in question follows on an avowal of the lovers being true to each other: They were silent at first, only facing and faced, only grasping and grasped, only meeting and met. They vowed it, gave it out and took it in, drawn, by their intensity, more closely together. Then of a sudden, through this tightened circle, as at the issue of a narrow strait into the sea beyond, everything broke up, broke down, gave way, melted and mingled.

Their lips sought their lips, their pressure their response and their response their pressure; with a violence that had sighed itself the next moment to the longest and deepest stillnesses they passionately sealed their pledge. Yet there is a contradiction between the passage and its context, for Charlotte wants to convince herself that what she and her lover are doing is also for the benefit of their respective partners.

Immediately before the quoted passage she says: The two lovers feel a sense of freedom. Amerigo heightens this notion by using a simile in a passage written in free indirect style: He even fantasizes about a situation in which there has passed no time between his earlier happiness with Charlotte and the blissful future of their renewed relationship: The sense of the past revived for him nevertheless as it had not yet done: Assingham, who had made the match between her and Verver.

Thus one cannot appreciate the powerful description of the love scene in question without unease. Here, however, the epic heroism of the ancient text is replaced by ordinary occurrences in the fictional Dublin of the early twentieth century. Yet, in contrast to works such as these, where the adulteresses are the central characters, the focus in Ulysses is on the deceived husband.

The passage to be analyzed comes from the Calypso section of the novel: Letting the blind up by gentle tugs halfway his backward eye saw her glance at the letter and tuck it under her pillow. Likewise, it cannot be argued that ethics, as a philosophical discipline, addresses moral problems in an abstract way and on a higher level, whereas narrative fiction represents them concretely, and on a lower level, and in a form which is closer to the real world of experience.

On the contrary, if one omits explicitly didactic texts, the literary representation of ethics is a phenomenon sui generis. It opens a dimension of morality which emerges in this way only in narration and remains beyond the reach of philoso- phical abstraction and propositional discourse. The Interdependence of Ethics and Aesthetics in Narrative Art This study has argued that narrative art can claim authority in the sphere of ethics, albeit in a different way than philosophy.

The Odyssey has proved to be a revealing text in this respect, insofar as storytelling emerges in this work as a means of self-constitution, a phenomenon which has become a topos in modern theories of narration. As the stories in the Odyssey paradigmatically show, morality emerges in narration under the condition of the aesthetic form of the story being told. This kind of procedure may be indispensable as ancil- lary work; however, it does not belong to the center of an ethics of narration.

In the analytical part of this study, I have shown that moral aspects of human relationships can be represented in the novel in ways which are inaccessible to other forms of discourse. This is why it may seem difficult to develop ethical narratology into a systematic science. But it is encouraging that Berning has, under the term Critical Ethical Narratology, successfully attempted to elucidate value construction in literary non-fiction.

Scholars should be aware that an ethics of narration can be adequately realized only if it takes storytelling seriously as an art and focusses on narrative technique, which contributes both to giving expres- sion to moral issues and problems and alerting readers cognitively to the com- plexities of human life and relationships. The moral substance of narrative texts cannot be expressed in an abstract form; in other words, it cannot be articulated in the form of philosophical argument and proposition. As was noted at the beginning of this study, if it were possible to formulate in abstract terms the moral meaning of a fictional narrative and pinpoint the values it presents in the form of norms or principles, there would be no need for narrative art.

Narrative art opens a dimension of human life and human relationships which is closed to the disciplines of philosophy and psy- chology. Works Cited Austen, Jane. Towards a Critical Ethical Narratology: The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction. U of California P, It is his aim to expand the concept of cognition beyond that of knowledge and thus to open philosophical discourse for literary forms of representation. See his work Erkenntnis Cogni- tion , The Tragedy of Manners. A Study of Immigrant Discourse.

John Benjamins Publishing Company, A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey. Second Series 33 Walter de Gruyter, Hampe, Michael, Die Lehren der Philosophie. Ham- burg, Unpublished Master Thesis. Narrative and the Self. Jane Austen and the Enlightenment. The Negotiation of Values in Fiction. University of Nebraska Press, Frauenrollen und der englische Roman um Das narrativische Paradigma in den Kulturwissenschaften.

Mieth, Dietmar, Dichtung, Glaube und Moral. The Ethics of Reading: Empathie, Sympathie und Narra- tion. Strategien der Rezeptionslenkung in Prosa, Drama und Film. From Leavis to Levinas by Andrew Gibson. Essays on Philosophy and Literature. Living to Tell about It.

A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration. James Phelan, and Peter Rabinowitz. Henry James and Modern Moral Life. Lying and Poetry from Homer to Pindar. Falsehood and Deception in Archaic Greek Poetics. U of Michigan P, Procli Diadochi in Platonis rem publicam commentarii. Von Werken und Formen. U of Chicago P, Das Selbst als ein Anderer. Die Ethik der Fiktion und der englische Gegenwartsroman. Towards a General Typology. Henry James and the Morality of Fiction. Ethik und Moral als Problem der Literatur und Literatur- wissenschaft. Duncker und Humblot, Theory of Mind and the Novel.

Ohio State UP, The persuasive power of narratives, which has been demonstrated in a host of psychological experiments, offers a rewarding field of research for literary studies in general and ethical criticism in particular. If fictional as well as factual narratives can change the beliefs of readers, then they are ethically meaningful to disseminate values, emotional dispositions, and cognitive prac- tices. Building on recent research in psychology and literary studies, this article explores in three steps the ethical value of fictional narratives. First, the persua- sive power of narratives is discussed from a cognitive perspective, which in- cludes consideration of the ethical consequences of taking the perspectives of others.

Second, these insights are connected to a delineation of narrative con- ventions, which can foster the kind of deeper understanding associated with altruistic behavior. In the third part, pertinent narrative strategies are discussed from an ethical perspective. A brief conclusion summarizes the most important results and sketches some fields that merit exploration in future studies of ethical criticism. But even though the persuasive power of narrative is taken for granted and exploited in fields such as marketing and politics, literary scholars have as yet been reluctant to acknowledge this potential of narrative.

If narratives can alter the beliefs of readers, then they are important tools for spreading values, emotional dispositions, and cognitive practices. This does not mean, however, that fictional narratives are necessarily moral; instead, they can be used for myriad sorts of im moral purposes.

In the following, I will clarify the question concerning the ethical importance of narrative conventions by combining recent research in psychology with narrative theory. I argue that it is worthwhile to take the persuasive power of fiction seriously by practicing an ethical criticism that acknowledges the impor- tance of form, and, at the same time, developing criteria for evaluating the ethics of fictional works.

At first sight, these results seem surprising: Yet this is exactly what studies have found, and these initial findings have subsequently been replicated and broadened in scope since the end 1 Though scholars such as Jay Hillis Miller, Paul Hernadi or Wayne C.

Booth assume that fiction does have an ethical importance, they do not explicitly deal with the persuasive power of fiction, define it, explore the reasons for this potential of fictional stories or relate it to formal conven- tions. Moreover, it is not just factual stories that can persuade readers: The morals and values embedded in literary works matter. In their overview of recent research in this area, Green and Donahue show that these morals should be taken seriously and questioned with regard to the kind of ethics that are spread via particular kinds of fiction. To date, no definitive study has explained why stories known to be figments of the imagination can have such a potential for persuasion.

The suspension of disbelief, thus, naturally accom- panies the process of reading good narratives. Contrary to the Romanticist belief that the reading of fiction involves the willing suspension of disbelief, it requires more cognitive effort to suspend belief and critically scrutinize the plausibility or correctness of what has been read see Gilbert; Schreier In the following, I will concentrate on the second function that reading, particularly of fictional stories, can fulfill, and I will propose a few hypotheses concerning the relationships between the two.

In order to explore which narrative conventions can evoke sensitive under- standing of others, it is necessary to first delineate the cognitive and affective processes involved in this kind of understanding. Related feelings, which are connected to pro-social behavior, have also been referred to as sympathy, pity, compassion, and sympathetic distress Batson, Ahmad, and Lishner ; they should be distinguished from the kind of empathic sharing involved in perspective taking. Both processes are, in different combinations, practiced in interactive encounters and in the reading of fiction; in short, the understanding of people and the understanding of fictional characters bear many resemblances.

Such an elaboration of implicit personality theories is a precondition for pro-social action, since one must under- stand the needs and feelings of others before one can put that knowledge into practice. Nonetheless, there is at least one kind of perspective-taking that can be practiced in reading fiction and that has been shown to correlate with altruistic behavior.

In contrast, imagining oneself in the position of another is not necessa- rily related to altruistic behavior. Several conditions must be met in order to adopt such a perspective, and I argue that fictional narratives are particularly apt to fulfil these. As far as literature is concerned, the obstacles blocking perspective taking in real-life situations are negligible: The combination of these factors allows the reader to regulate his or her own perspective and to imagine what the characters feel and think, all while remaining aware of his or her differences from the characters.

Reading fiction thus affords a perfect opportunity for practicing perspective taking that is, due to its manifold inherent difficulties, precarious in interactive situations see Decety and Sommerville; and Rameson and Lieberman. This is also linked to the persuasive power of fiction: Interestingly, two factors related to the story content have been disproven: Apparently, stories written by canonical or bestselling authors have had more impact than those produced by psychologists for the purposes of testing Green — However, I would argue that, from the perspective of literary studies, one can point to a number of narrative conventions that encourage perspective taking.

It is worth emphasizing that these conventions cannot deter- mine how individual readers respond to a text. Characters like Harry Potter or the hobbit Frodo would thus meet the criterion of perceived realism. Within their respective fic- tional worlds, the characters act in a way that is plausible to the extent that they correspond to current folk psychology. This fits in well with the requirements for the imagine-other perspective: This does not mean, of course, that in order for characters to be perceived as lifelike they must be models of reason and internal consistency: Indeed, it could even be argued that the most lifelike characters are those that are complex and carry internal contradictions.

Moreover, genre conventions, individual preferences, and the cognitive abilities of readers for instance, chil- dren as opposed to adults each play a large role in defining what is plausible within the frame of the fictional world. This allows the reader to follow and empathically share the mental processes and emotions of fictional characters, and thereby reduces the distance between reader and characters.

These comments can fulfil a wide spectrum of functions: The second provides knowledge about the characters and offers insight into their respective personalities and current mental states, thereby allowing the reader to understand characters and adopt their perspectives without actually following their thought processes. The second provides knowledge about the characters and can, in turn, induce readers to feel for them.

Both aspects are intri- cately related as far as the taking of perspectives is concerned, but they proceed via different means. The third, and equally time-honored, mode of heightening the interest and empathy of readers is that of setting a character into a precarious position. In order to feel with and for characters, they must be in a situation that potentially allows for positive as well as negative endings. In such situations, the reader is prone to evaluate the future development of events in light of his or her own wishes as well as those of the characters.

It must be emphasized, however, that each of the three conventions discussed above can, by the same token, be employed in order to increase the distance between character and reader. In particular, contemporary and multi-perspective works fre- quently present abhorrent, disgusting, or, at least, undesirable feelings that the reader understands though they evoke negative emotions instead of empathic sharing. In this respect, the character of a serial killer may serve as focalizer in precarious situations, with the reader hoping that the character will be apprehended in time. The process of sharing thoughts and emotions can therefore be reduced to a merely rational process, one which evokes disgust and antipathy rather than empathy.

When it comes to literary conventions, there is no form-to- function mapping: I wish to argue that increasing the reader-character distance is of crucial importance for the process of perspective taking. This is rare, however, even as far as the empathic sharing of thoughts and feelings is concerned. This process consists of an oscillation between two quite different cognitive activities on the part of the reader: This second process is intricately connected to an overall assess- ment of the situation and to the moral positioning of readers; it is closely related to questions of ethics.

The Ethics of Form: Narrative Strategies from an Ethical Point of View So far, I have stressed that the adoption of the imagine-other perspective is ethically desirable. This corresponds to the Western tradition of appreciating empathy, sympathy, and the power of literature to evoke these feelings. As the pro-social associations of the imagine-other perspective evidence, there is good reason to follow this tradition, to which authors such as George Eliot have contributed.

With regard to the ethical value of literature, it is advantageous to differenti- ate between two aspects: On the one hand, there is the reduction of the distance between readers and characters, and the adoption of the imagine-other perspec- tive. On the other hand, it is important to emphasize the ethical significance of distancing devices that contri- bute to an awareness of the differences between readers and characters. Especially in postmodern times, it is necessary to consider the experience of alterity, of the otherness of others.

According to the French philosopher Alain Badiou 41 , the acceptance of alterity and the radical difference between oneself and everybody else including oneself is a cornerstone of a theory of ethics. This view is compa- tible with a Levinas-inspired ethics, which has moved away from the prescriptive dimension of traditional values and towards a more tentative and open postmo- dern ethics. Because we live in a society marked by multiplicity, heterogeneity, and alterity, literary works have an ethical value that transcends the practice of the imagine-other perspective, for they not only enable us to appreciate this kind of heterogeneity and complexity, but also help us to accept otherness, to refrain from stereotyping and categorizing others, and to abandon the insistence on closure.

This does not imply a devaluation of the kind of perspective taking described above; rather, it makes it possible to appreciate the ethical value of narrative strategies that induce both sensitive understanding of lifelike characters and the acknowledgement of instability, openness, heterogeneity, and complexity.

It therefore seems promising to briefly consider aesthetic devices that in- crease the distance between readers and characters. Practicing empathy is only part of a more complex cognitive process as far as altruistic behaviour is con- cerned: Moreover, distancing strategies are closely linked to the aesthetic quality of literature. Defamiliarizing devices, which slow the reading process and enhance the dis- tance of what is being described to the reader who must puzzle out what is meant can also open the space necessary for questioning stereotypes and pre- judices and for affectively engaging with characters who may initially seem strange.

However, defamiliarizing devices do not always lead to cognitive closure; from an ethical perspective, what seems to be even more important is the flex- ibility and openness such devices require of readers. For example, it is frequently impossible to categorize characters; especially in modernist works, the first description of a figure often amounts to nothing more than hints about their opinions, attitudes, or dispositions. Moreover, the dynamics of the reading process must be taken into account: In contrast to our routines in everyday life, in reading fiction our first impressions are often questioned and need to be revised.

In many cases, it is possible in retrospect to recognize former misunderstandings and to reinterpret events in light of these new insights; in other cases, the uncertainty concerning the evaluation of a character remains. Some literary texts necessitate the acknowl- edgement of complexity and otherness as well as only partial comprehension; they deny cognitive closure and complete comprehension. Shifts in focalization, which call for rapid adjustment to different points of view, can enhance the effects of defamiliarization.

This differen- tiation is also important for understanding the cognitive and the ethical value of reading fiction. This implies that the reader must choose which characters to empathize with and which to main- tain distance from. Various other aesthetic devices can also guide the processes of perspective taking. It is infeasible to discuss them here, as an effective and detailed account would have to explore, among other things, conventions concerning the handling of time and the importance of ambiguities and gaps or blanks Iser 67, Multi-perspective works especially necessitate the interpretation, evaluation, and weighting of different perspectives.

Readers are encouraged to accept alterity and heterogeneity. They practice a process that, from an ethical perspective, is arguably as valuable as adopting the perspectives of others. In literary works, this process is guided by distancing and engaging devices. The complexity and denial of closure inspired by the use of narrative forms can thus induce readers to comprehend contradictory positions, thereby rendering alterity more acceptable and moving towards an ethics of alterity.

Unreli- able narration is per se a problematic narrative device as far as the ethics of a novel are concerned. After all, unreliable narrators usually tell their story from their own point of view; particularly those sincere, but in some way misguided, deviant or mentally ill character narrators that Booth and many others dealt with allow us insight into their thought processes and justify their behaviors in accordance with their own norms, trying to encourage the reader to empathize with them.

The relation between ethics and unreliable narrators with questionable norms and values is thus fraught with that the villain of his novel Clarissa published in actually evoked the sympathy of many of his intended readers. I owe this reference concerning the wide spectrum between the bonding and distancing devices in the same narrative text to the editors of this volume. On the one hand, the confrontation with radically different views may establish this kind of fiction as a valuable vehicle for ethics, because it evokes an experience of alterity.

After all, cognitively following the thoughts of narrators or characters does not necessarily imply either affective sharing or a loss of critical distance on the part of the reader.

A similar, perhaps even more important, kind of ethical reflection can be inspired by multi-perspective works featuring heterogeneous perspectives that can neither be reconciled with each other nor discarded as irrelevant or simply wrong. Such novels, which require openness and acceptance of ambiguity and complexity on the part of readers, implicitly raise the question of whether there are absolute ethical values.

The same function can be fulfilled by novels that include several narrators or present only a particular point of view while hinting at other, equally valid ones. The topic certainly merits further attention, but I would like to suggest that three interrelations espe- cially warrant exploration. Second, shifts from categorization to individuation and the discarding of stereotyping a particular character may engender a change of attitude towards particular stereotypes or an awareness of the problems of stereotyping in general.

Third, taking the perspec- tives of characters and temporarily adopting their values and traits may lead to a reflection on and appraisal of these values and thereby result in the dissemination of values. The ethical impor- tance of literature has been stressed by scholars in both Western and Eastern countries. Rarely, however, has it been attempted to consider insights from psychology and cognitive studies in order to link the use of particular constella- tions of narrative conventions to specific kinds of ethical values.

While the effects of particular narrative conventions always depend on their specific combination and weighting as well as on the content and context of the particular work, two aspects merit consideration with regard to the analysis of the ethical value of 6 I owe this suggestion to Shang Biwu and Nie Zhenzhao. However, many questions remain open, especially as far as the effects of the arrangement of specific narrative strategies are concerned. A framework for understanding such combinations has been sketched here, yet this could be further detailed and modified in any number of ways worthy of exploration.

Which constellations of particular devices reduce the distance between reader and character and invite the reader to feel with and for the character in question? To what extent are these combinations subject to historical change, what role is played by cultural values, and is it possible to relate specific constellations to specific genres? And, last but not least, what role do specific cultural models play as far as concerns, for instance, features about the contents of the work or the depiction of the characters? How do characteristics such as physical attractiveness, generally ideal personality traits, and emotional dispositions relate to the use of formal conventions?

The number of open research questions could daunt scholars into surrender- ing before even making any attempt. However, there are good reasons for endea- voring to address these problems. The persuasive power of fiction is a fact: At a moment when the legitimization of literary scholarship has become an urgent problem in many countries, the promise of such a benefit is particularly stimulat- ing and justifying.

An Essay on the Under- standing of Evil. Turia und Kant, Klein, and Lori Highberger. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Evolution and the Nature of Narrative. Jonathan Gottschall and David S. Northwestern Uni- versity Press Kulturen der Empathie Cultures of Empathy. Busselle, Rick, and Helena Bilandzic. A Model of Narrative Comprehension and Engagement. How, When and Why?

Decety, Jean, and Jerry A. A Social Cognitive Neuroscience View. How Reading Fiction Transforms the Self. The Event of Literature. Willie van Peer, and Seymour Chatman. State U of New York P, A View from Cognitive Psychology. The Moral Turn of Postmodernism. Gerhard Hoffmann and Alfred Hornung. Brock, and Geoff F. The Role of Transportation into Narrative Worlds.

Markman, William Klein, and Julie Suhr. Habermas, Tilman, and Verena Diel. Event Severity and Narrative Perspectives. Perspektivische Interaktion im Roman. A Coevolutionary Perspective on Imaginative Worldmaking. Commercialization of Human Feeling. The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion. Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Empathy and the Novel. Willie van Peer and Seymour Chatman. Moll, Henrike, and Andrew N. Level 2 Perspective-Taking at 36 Months of Age. Jutta Zimmermann and Britta Salheiser.

Narrative Attempts at Claiming Authority. Reading Fictions, Changing Minds: The Cognitive Value of Fiction.

Account Options

Review of General Psychology 3 Emotional Experience and Its Skills. Living to Tell about It: Gerrig, and Daniel S. Rameson, Lian, and Matthew D. A Social Cognitive Neuroscience Ap- proach. The Dynamics of Mental-Model Construction. Berlin and New York: In Pursuit of Narrative Dynamics. Lemon and Marion J. U of Nebraska P, Review of Literature and Implications for Future Research. Understanding the Processing of Narrative Persuasion. Tooby, John, and Leda Cosmides.

A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism 30 These include a rabbinic formula about the category-status of the material text, which among other things demarcates religious from secular. The essay distills an argument from a larger project, To Make the Hands Impure: Art and Ethical Adventure, the Difficult and the Holy Fordham UP, , which considers the question of how reading may be said to possess a certain ritual sensibility embodied by the ethical situation of the book lying in the hands of its readers.

He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. You want to be fooled. In this respect, however, the schema of Pledge-Turn,- Prestige has yet another story to tell, as an ars poetica for the workings of art, generally. Architecture, for example, stakes a pledge on the transformation of space and surrounding element into social structure and habitation.

Music stakes a pledge on mechanical waves of pressure realized in ordered configurations of frequency and pitch, duration, and interval that enable song and rhythmic pulse. The plastic arts stake a pledge on the materiality of stone and wood, glass and textile, and pigment and canvas rendered into design, pattern, image, and form. Dance stakes a pledge on the human body posed and mobilized through perfor- mance and social contact. Cinema stakes a pledge on the illusion of movement generated by twenty-four still frames per second not to mention the bricolage of those cutter-magicians known as editors , and, like theater, it stakes a pledge on the stylized impersonation of person.

Literary and verbal representation stakes a pledge on language as both artifact and expression, and on the uncanny circuit of address between writers and readers. And each pledge in the history of these traditions, crafts, and practices has a corresponding turn: Reading and the Restless Hand 59 Likewise, for each, there is—by something being brought back, smuggled in, or shown always to have been there even in disguise—the third act, the prestige.

Art presents itself, wills some change in form or the production of some effect or consequence, and finally re-materializes either itself or its objects. Mimesis-as-prestige is costly, for nothing is ever really brought back whole once it has been pledged. Manipulated and subject to sleight, the object-in-hand never really stays un-altered.

My essay centers on this very quotidian economy, the everyday mimetic circuit of exchange that we take for granted—even we scholars, archivists, and professional book-handlers whose vocation is to read. Regardless of what exactly Levinas means here—and I will return to him shortly— I invite the reader to think about the composite term hand-book in the naively corporeal sense: By this point, the title of my essay has perhaps become somewhat clearer. I have begun it in this manner for three reasons.


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  6. Secondly, I want to suggest that this formula, as in my claim about its importability as a kind of ars poetica for the workings of aesthetic practices generally, also applies to the enterprise of commentary and criticism—as its own sort of conjuring and stagecraft.

    It is to describe it as if literature were music or art, and as if one could sing or paint criticism. Again, but for the first time: All critics do this, but the writer-critic, wanting to be both faithful critic and original writer, does it acutely, in a flurry of trapped loyalties. The reverse of the statement would be more correct: Reading and the Restless Hand 61 communicative and communal myth of itself; their function, as philosopher Jean Luc Nancy ascribes to literary art itself at its most critical, is to interrupt Nancy, The Inoperative Community 43 ff. The third, and most immediate, reason for my beginning thus is that the formula of Pledge-Turn-Prestige has been repurposed here as an armature on which to sculpt this essay, which following these preliminaries will assume a three-part structure.

    In this way, an organizing concern for the performative ethics of criticism, in craft and artificing, reveals its own hand. Tulp is directinging its collective attention. For the book alone allows the body to be deciphered and invites the passage from the interior to the exterior. Sebald comments on this seeming anomaly in The Rings of Saturn 16— The critic Pleshette DeArmitt glosses Kofman similarly: This is much more than a shift in perspective—it is an occultation: Lawrence Wechsler, for example, in an essay written in , strongly contests such an interpretation: Nonsense—though, admittedly, a peculiarly self-referential art-academic, specialized-tome- generating sort of nonsense.

    Just look at the picture. For what a marvel of motility it is—with its capacity for compression and extension, for flex and repose, grip and rotation. The hand in itself is a veritable miracle…. This is a painting, then, about looking at hands, about vision and malleability—about the fundamentals of painting itself. Either the book is the final object of internal gaze, which the interposed hand interrupts; or the gazes at the hand cannot help but extend farther forward, to the book behind it.

    The line of sight linking them also, of necessity, coordinates them. Indeed, as Keller herself notes about the material fate of her own Bible: The aggadic passages begins this way: Le geste de Raba est bizarre: That was the degree to which he forgot himself in study. Many of you are undoubtedly thinking, with good reason, that at this very moment, I am in the process of rubbing the text to make it spurt blood—I rise to the challenge. Has anyone ever seen a reading that was anything other than this effort carried out on a text? One must, by rubbing, remove this layer which corrodes them.

    I think you would find this way of proceeding natural. Raba, in rubbing his foot, was giving plastic expression to the intellectual work he was involved in. I mention Levinas here, in connection with the Helen Keller example, specifically to provide an initial example of the book- in-hand even if Levinas seems to concentrate on the foot-in-hand, or the foot-in- the-other-hand.

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    But on either side of the fulcrum between mimesis and exegesis, reading remains fundamentally tactile: I will offer a few examples from a somewhat different textual tradition. As soon as this volume began to circulate, Mr. And so, Levinas surely does massage the Talmudic text here, which in its plain sense more likely suggests that Rava was sitting on his hand, and thus drawing blood by grinding it as opposed to the more provocative image of a frictional, restless hand. Intention and Method, J. Reading and the Restless Hand 65 literature I have since met with, speckled all over with ironmould, and having various specimens of the insect world smashed between their leaves.

    My favorites came from the school library. They were distributed in the lower classes. The teacher would call my name, and the book then made its way from bench to bench; one boy passed it on to another, or else it traveled over the heads until it came to rest with me, the student who had raised his hand.

    Its pages bore traces of the fingers that had turned them. The bit of corded fabric that finished off the binding, and that stuck out above and below, was dirty. But it was the spine, above all, that had had things to endure—so much so, that the two halves of the cover slid out of place themselves, and the edge of the volume formed ridges and terraces. Hanging on its pages, however, like Indian summer on the branches of the trees, were sometimes fragile threads of a net in which I had once become tangled when learning to read.

    Both scenes— negatively, in the first instance, and with more emulative force in the second— illustrate what I mean by transfer or transitivity. Finally, similarly palpably yet more grotesquely, what follows is a passage from a newspaper article about an heirloom of dubious distinction: But what added to her anxiety was her belief that the book was a contagion, that its gold-leafed pages would defile her should her fingers brush against it by accident when she was searching for another book on the shelf.

    However, the next section offers quite a different story, and is counterintui- tive in the extreme. In this story, the tradeoff involving both mimesis and exegesis is a line that marks one kind of text-culture or reading practice from another, a sign that registers canonical inclusion or exclusion, sanctity as opposed to mundanity, defilement versus consecration.

    Like the object-in-hand noted earlier that never really remains unaltered, the book-in-hand of this example concen- trates the very force of alteration. These categories distin- guished, according to character and degree, objects vessels, clothes, and houses, for example and persons in the Torah as either ritually clean or unclean: Reading and the Restless Hand 67 situated on a fault line between life and death, or between integral and particu- late.

    Correlatively, human hands themselves were also accorded a special status according to their propensity to busy themselves with things of every sort. Strangely enough, however, included among contaminant articles and objects is the material status of scripture itself. Such classification ensured that these inscriptions would not be handled casually and would be accorded the proper respect commanded by their qedushah, or holiness. And yet, counterintuitively, holy books possessed the power to taint persons, not vice versa. Scholars have been understandably piqued by the linguistic apotropaism that thus transforms defilement into a sign of sanctity.


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    An etiology for this peculiar reversal is offered in a tractate of the Talmud, which foregrounds storage places for Torah scrolls in the Mishnaic period early first through early third centuries C. The customary practice was to stow them with terumah, sanctified grain, since both were considered ritually holy. Could books that did not mention the name of God such as Song of Songs and The Book of Esther—or that skirted non-Jewish philosophies Ecclesiastes be included alongside the Torah and the Prophets as part of the Biblical text corpus?

    Did they refer to the ideas spoken within the book, or to the words of the book when spoken, or to the book itself as a physical object, or to all of these? Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity, But the physical is still a baseline. In the world of ceremonial practice, for example, a sefer Torah is a consecrated artifact accorded maximal dignity and modesty: The interdiction against casual contact accords with an entire halakhic protocol regulating the proper handling of ritual texts.

    By exten- sion, sefarim books with religious content are accorded their own elaborate de jure apparatus of reverential comportment, which, not coincidentally, calls pre- cise attention to their vulnerability. When a sefer falls, it must be reverently kissed upon being picked up; and when it becomes no longer usable, it must be put aside in a safe place or buried in the ground; it may not be burned or discarded.

    If stacked, sefarim are placed in order of rising qedusha: Pentateuch on top of Prophets, and Writings on top of Talmud volumes, on top of prayer books, etc. For a mere point or tangent, in this reckoning, inevitably expands with the wish to press further and touch more: I will pursue the first question, about contamination, and defer for a moment the second, about hands and touch. On contemporary Cuban Jewry, see Abel R. Returning to Jewish Cuba. Reading and the Restless Hand 71 the prayer services at the synagogue in Havana: It also suggests a transferential property of exposition and commentary inasmuch as a Torah scroll or canonized scripture does not exist secluded from bodily human contact—an inert totem or untouchable sacral object—but, on the contrary, is imbued with touch as the sanctifying effect of transitivity for reading eyes, reciting mouths, listening ears, and holding hands.

    What is so singular about the combination of hand and book, each its own metonym of the human, the two together conducting a circuit of tactile, cognitive, and affective energies? This returns us to the second question I left suspended: At the end of Otherwise Than Being; Or, Beyond Essence, Levinas calls such taken-for-grantedness to account in one of his most gem-like formules: If a Torah scroll can join the commu- nity of persons and thus, by itself, serve to fulfill the statutory mandate of communal prayer, then perhaps we too easily construe our relation to the texts we bear in hand, the texts that accompany us, side-by-side, marking the seam between, on one hand, corporeal, worldly event and, on the other, the enigma of tact, in the doubled sense of touch and regard.

    This intimacy between person and page is captured by medievalist Valerie Allen in direct connection with the Levinasian hermeneutic of sollicitation, of an agitated and agitating text, an integumentum or skin that solicits reading as rubbing. Knuth and edited by Olivier Joseph. Biographical treatments include J. Reading and the Restless Hand 73 Nonetheless, what I have generally called an ethics of reading situates itself exactly at this baseline phenomenal level. Even as I broach such a phrase, however, I am mindful of a caveat passed along by Charles Altieri that, once heard, is hard to ignore: For literary critics at least, this embarrassment can, or should, stem from taking ourselves as spokespersons for self-congratulatory values in reading that are extremely difficult to state in any public language.

    In literary studies, the ethical turn, as it has been called, has been revolving for a while: Injury and the Ethics of Reading. Nor does it concern itself with whether a text is licit or illicit, or virtuous and thus advanta- geous for its readers , or else somehow deleterious objectionable on some moral ground and thus disadvantageous. Human consciousness is always, for Hardy, embodied human consciousness.

    All states of being, not just overt, physical activity but even what appear to be forms of physical inactivity like reading or perceiving or feeling-inevitably entail reciprocal jostling with the world. The material record of the interaction between man and world often survives the interaction itself: But with that dialectic between concussiveness and largesse as specifically ethical correlates for the act of reading, I will now pivot to the third and concluding section of this article, the Prestige, where the magician, artist, or critic supposedly brings something back.

    That something is still the book-in-hand, the one we must rub to arrive at the life it conceals—even if in contact it becomes a somewhat different book. For once pledged, nothing truly remains un-altered. It has long been a matter of national custom for public monuments to the dead—in particular, those to victims of collective calamity—to display their names in memorialization.

    At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the 58, names of American soldiers killed in action in the Southeast Asia theater of operations are etched chronologically into the granite wall according to the casualty dates. Reading and the Restless Hand 75 Oklahoma City Memorial, the names inscribed on empty chairs are grouped according to the floors where the people were located at the moment of the bombing, and also according to the blast pattern.

    Other memorials list names in the most common and democratic manner: This is its feat of leger e demain, and its prestige. Around the perimeter of the two colossal cubic voids that mark the footprints of the destroyed towers—each of which are ringed by waterfalls cascading into a sunken pool that encloses a smaller, central draining pool—is a bronze balustrade of five-foot by ten-foot panels on which are inscribed the names of the 2, victims from ninety countries of the attacks on September 11, and February 26, Each name is handfinished.

    Name adjacency depends on patterns of affiliation. So complex was the entire arrangement that an algorithm was required to sort the multiple permutations of nearness. But a casual visitor is free to absorb, intone, litanize the names as a pure collectivity, not so differently from how those names are publicly recited on each anniversary: There is another way, however, in which they can be read and thus individuated: That is, just as the restless hand that reads these names could be said to perform an ethics of reading, so rhetoricizing it as a scene of reading among a community of readers also limns an ethics of criticism.

    The rubbing itself solicits rubbing. Reading and the Restless Hand 77 witnesses, do we even attest to the witnessing in any visible, accountable way? For is that not one of the cathartic purposes of an artwork, and a reason why we raise monuments to the dead: In the face of such demurrals, I want to propose another set of possible consequences.

    Beyond affect or pathos, beyond spontaneity defended and preserved, we are given the chance to enact something by being asked to make connections, even if the traces are ultimately ineffable. In reading the names engraved upon the National September 11 Memorial, we do more than just record them: While one is not asked to sign an affidavit after visiting the memorial, one can still opt to touch and physicalize it to a greater degree of permanence, namely, by penciling it—as is common when one needs to retrieve lost information.

    Marks, and Mark Patterson. This dialectical yet also tactile movement of inscription re-inscribed by an ethic of reading is something I trace in separate chapters on Levinas, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Stanley Cavell, a triumvirate of ethical philosophers I first braided together in Narrative Ethics and whom I revisit in To Make the Hands Impure as three kinds of readers, each drawn by or to a particular genre: A series of tropes organizes the constellation of chapters, functioning as both structural armature and cladding. What invites the hand into movement and contact with the bronze parapets at the National September 11 Memorial is the regress of name to person to material surface—each element, both explicably and inexplic- ably, standing for the other.

    But the magic process by which writing becomes altered reading, the way it both marks and invites marking, and solicits tact—touch and regard—is what explains the transformative move from eye to restless hand, and the turning of its pledge into an always-receding prestige. Works Cited and Consulted Ajzenstat, Oona. Hebrew, Greek, and Linguistic Justice. September 21, , 2: Davis, and Kenneth Womack.

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