Understanding the Act of Reading: the WOE Beginners' Guide to Dissection

Abstract (in English): 

Describes the process of reading the hypertext read-only file "WOE" (included on a disk with this journal) in which voices, memories, influences, and the process of text production all converge, rejecting the objective model of reality as the great "either/or" and embracing, instead, the "and/and/and."

Pull Quotes: 

The problem with getting inside the act of reading for writers and theorists alike is its ubiquity—there's no escaping it, and, like any environment with which we are overly familiar, we no longer see it. So take it all away: all the familiar trappings, the pages and their numbers, the binding, the heft of a book, its cover, the chapters, table of contents, the dwindling supply of pages that lets you know you're nearing the end. And we're left with something more basic than soliciting and wheedling, blanks, gaps, or spots of indeterminacy. We're left with what constitutes the act of reading, and what we read for, why we stop reading, and ultimately, why we bother to read at all. The concrete act of reading itself does not necessarily seem tied to why we read in any larger sense, which is probably one of the reasons no theorist in the schools of either reception-theory or reader-response has actively pursued any inquiry into why, for example, we read fiction. Reading the printed word is one of the things we do: reading for pleasure (as opposed to reading in the pursuit of, say, specific knowledge for end-defined reasons) is something that we cannot explain in terms of Iser's schematized aspects or Sartre's directed creation because we are never thrown back on such primary resources when we read. When we read print narratives, we arrive already equipped with a full repertoire of reactions and strategies, including turning to the last chapter to find out who really knocked off Roger Ackroyd or skimming over all those huge chunks of exposition in Bleak House. We never come face to face with the ground zero of reading—just why the hell we do it. But we do reach that ground zero in reading narratives like afternoon and WOE. Here the question becomes one of your resources, if only when you acknowledge it.

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Scott Rettberg