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Journal Articles Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice Year : 2011

The Pragmatism of Walls, With a Little Help from Robert Frost

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Abstract

This paper is mainly a theoretical discussion. The problem raised is probably age-old: why do we read books? It seems that some new answers can be tentatively offered. The author argues for a shift from interpretation to pragmatics. In other words, the traditional answer which stresses the discovery and/or production of meaning (either inside the text and/or negotiated with the reader) as it is currently practised in schools and universities is not sufficient. People just don't read books to construct a body of knowledge. The discussion draws upon the last part of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, as well as on a famous article by Richard Rorty. Philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Gilles Deleuze are also called upon. Bearing in mind that actual readers are extremely different from each other, it may be considered that some of them will react passively to a given literary text, whereas—at the other end of the spectrum—others will discover new perceptions of themselves and their environnment and hopefully develop new values, or—more to the point—new habituses, to borrow Pierre Bourdieu's concept. The author also strongly considers that a theoretical discussion will always remain unconvincing without at least one example analysed in detail. As a consequence, the paper suggests six abstract levels at which Robert Frost's famous short poem "Mending Wall"may provide some of its readers with tools helping help experiment with new possibilities of life.
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Dates and versions

hal-02488666 , version 1 (23-02-2020)

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  • HAL Id : hal-02488666 , version 1

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Daniel Thomières. The Pragmatism of Walls, With a Little Help from Robert Frost. Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice, 2011, 5 (1). ⟨hal-02488666⟩
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