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John Bird <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 20 Nov 2013 19:06:17 -0500
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David Fears asked me to forward this message to the list. I apologized to him for wasting his time with my navel gazing.

John Bird

From: David Fears 
Sent: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 4:17 PM
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: Your article

John, I read your interesting article "Mind the Gaps, etc." and wrote a reply for a friend of mine to post on the Forum (because as you may recall I was banned from with support by you and others back in 2008), but his post was rejected. (we often use this same computer) Because I have scholarly questions about this approach of yours, and the possible use of it in the classroom, I send the post to you direct, below:

In John Bird’s “Mind the Gap” article, I am reminded of experiments in composition by Flower and Hayes (“Images, Plans, and Prose: The Representation of Meaning in Writing” 1984). As “formalists” Flower & Hayes constructed experiments where writers would make notes aside during drafting and/or revising texts. 

Though such an exercise as Bird makes in dissecting or deconstructing _Adventures of Huck Finn_ can bring interesting and unintended results, the primary weakness of such a methodology in creating “virtual texts” is the very procedure itself. That is, the very act of stopping to write a thought here and there at a word or a phrase _alters_ the reading experience into something akin to analysis rather than creating a true virtual text. Reading straight through a passage and then commenting would create a vastly different result. Stopping umpteen times in a text surely eliminates the flow the author intended, and as such whatever virtual realization that is derived is a paltry shadow of the real thing. Or is it? Such questions may be unanswerable. 

And, it may seem counter-intuitive to focus on what is NOT in a text rather than what IS in a text. This makes for great academic papers but I wonder if it has any other value? Indeed there is then no limit to what the mind may fill-in, extrapolate, imagine, guess, surmise or inject. No matter how true it is that your first reading is not my first reading; your twelfth reading will never be my reading, etc., the question begs asking—do these realities lead us into a greater understanding of the writer’s intention? Or, do they simply involve some sort of “video game of the mind”? that is a form of navel-staring. How do we teach literature by such methods? Bird suggests using it in a classroom setting, but won’t that very setting and that methodology change the reader’s vision to his detriment as well as to his insightfulness? 


Bill Owen

c/o David H. Fears


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