Sarah Raff British novelists were hounded throughout the eighteenth century by the charge that they seduced female readers and thereby turned these readers into quixotes. The accusation linked seduction with quixotism in the following way. Once inflamed for the first time by a licentious scene in the novel, the reader, unable to consummate her desire with the text itself, attempts to enact that scene in the real world, much as Don Quixote attempts to enact scenes of chivalry. By performing his fictions--and the sexual transgression to which they are reducible--the reader becomes, in effect, a character moved by the hands of the author whose book has, by inflaming her, already destroyed her chastity of mind and perpetrated her first seduction. The author exerts complete sexual and intellectual mastery over the reader, who imposes the semiotic code of the novel on the whole range of her experience and selects whichever lover the text appears to choose for her. The reader is Galatea to the author's Pygmalion: the author shapes her to fit his desire in the same acts with which he shapes the fictional heroine whom she imitates. The statue comes alive when the reader quixotically performs with a
Comparative Literature Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Jun 12, 2006
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