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Reading Today – Edited by Heta Pyrhönen and Janna Kantola pdf download

Book Title Reading Today
Book AuthorJanna Kantola
Total Pages213
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Reading Today – Edited by Heta Pyrhönen and Janna Kantola


Reading experimental literature:  unreadability, discomfort and reading  strategies

Natalya Bekhta

In what follows I discuss unreadability and its relation to reading and interpretation of experimental literature. What precisely does unreadability mean? Where can it be located? How far does it impede reading and can it be overcome?

I want to address these questions within the frameworks of narratology and literary pragmatics and suggest that in some cases, if not most, unreadability is a productive textual quality: it forces the reader to look for new reading strategies.

 Located in the text and in the reader, unreadability may be described as a reading difficulty as well as its effect.

It is produced by complications on the levels of textual comprehension and interpretation. In other words, the reader, if encountering a text that resists sense-making or meaning-making, is faced with a problem of finding reading strategies that would ‘fit’ the given text and help uncover its meaning.

I discuss the unreadable in relation to comprehension and interpretation, which – inevitably, it seems – will draw on examples from what is considered experimental fiction.

I start by looking into the phenomena of readability and unreadability, their effects and connotations.

To understand the causes of reading difficulties, I then adopt Nils Erik Enkvist’s pragmatic approach towards understanding literature and test it on the examples from Futurist poetry by Mykhajl’ Semenko and from Gertrude Stein; these texts are typically considered ‘unreadable’.1

Dealing with these texts leads me, in the final part of the chapter, to discuss reading strategies that are at play before, during and after reading unconventional fiction. Some of these strategies, such as naturalization, have already been described in detail but nevertheless need revisiting, and some that have been observed just recently, such as ‘Zen reading’, need closer scrutiny.

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