Journal - Vol. 3 (Summer, 2011)
Reception: texts, readers, audiences, history
Vol. 3 (Summer, 2011)
In this issue, we are pleased to present a new feature: book reviews, and to thank Jim Machor for arranging them. These reviews examine accounts of reading, reception, and book history as well as the reception history of much British and American fiction. In addition, the essays in this issue present a remarkable variety of approaches to and methods for reception study.
In the lead essay, "They Talk, Who Listens: Audience in American Indian Literatures--The Erdrich Example," Ken Roemer urges critics to pay more attention to the ways in which audiences listen or fail to listen in contemporary Native American fiction. In what he terms the “post-genocide, still partially colonial worlds” depicted in Louse Erdrich’s Tracks (1988) and Last Report, in particular, sovereignty, endurance, and basic survival often depend upon the development of listening and interpretive skills that combine and transcend previous models from Euro-American and Native cultures. In "Toward a Life History of Reading," Jennifer Nolan-Stinson examines the conditions in which reading, rather than listening, takes place. Instead of considering groups of readers, she argues that the “life history” of individual readers, including social, cultural, spatial, and temporal influences, explains their activity most fully. In “To See Across the Veil of Print: Virtual Re-personalization of the Reader-Author Relationship during the ‘Reading Revolution,’” Olga Kuminova examines the effects of the eighteenth-century’s explosive growth of texts, readers and authors, not the life history of readers or the importance of listening. She shows that, because of this growth, the personal relationship of authors and patrons broke down. The impersonality which readers subsequently faced troubled them so much that they constructed “virtual” relationships with authors. She also shows that established accounts of reading, texts, authors, and writing do not adequately account for such relationships. Addressing concrete historical issues, Charlotte Templin’s “Americans Read Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing: Literary Criticism and Cultural Differences” shows that American reviews of Atwood’s Surfacing, which has provoked significant responses on both sides of the border, betrays contrary assumptions and attitudes toward Canada. She argues that the reviews appropriate themes in the novels for American uses and may ignore or repudiate a critique of America that is a recurrent theme in the novel. Katherine Mack’s “Public Memory as Contested Receptions of the Past” also addresses concrete historical issues, but she examines the debates about remembrance and forgetting in the ‘new’ South Africa as well as the relationship between reception study and public memory. To illustrate and elaborate the relationship of public memory and reception, she explains the institutional memory/reception of South Africa’s apartheid past, the Truth and Reconciliation Commision (TRC), and Bitter Fruit, Achmat Dangor’s novelistic reception of that past and the TRC.
We certainly expect that future issues of the RSS journal will include equally novel and original approaches to the study of audiences, reading, reception, and book history. Future issues will also include a substantial number of book reviews.