Emily Hodgson Anderson University of Southern California Debates about how we read--and whether we should read at or below the surface of things--are, in our field, nothing new. Take, for example, the eighteenth-century anxiety surrounding how to read people: on one hand we have the predominance of physiognomy and the popularity of the so-called "type" character. On the other hand we have anxieties about hypocrisy and the eighteenth-century fanaticism for masquerade. While the former scenarios ask readers to find personhood on the surface, the latter scenarios send readers searching for personhood beneath a mask. In the eighteenth century, the locus of personal identity shifts between the superficial and the buried, and while I'm not going to rehearse these shifts or their causation here, I do want to suggest that they make us well suited to understand the current, disciplinary debates about reading. So far, this is a disciplinary anxiety that seems to have passed us by. One of the questions motivating this particular "critical conversation" had to do with why this debate about reading hasn't yet garnered the attention or input of our subfield. The question "why do we argue about the way we read?" morphed for us
The Eighteenth Century – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Mar 6, 2013
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