Jan 2, 2012

What Happens When I Read Novels


       When I read novels I do not see images when I read. I may see an image emerge in my mind’s eye after the reading has been done, but during the reading itself I read in black and white without images. What I conjure in my mind's eye of Marcel dipping a madeleine cake into a cup of tea anticipate images. Novels do not generate images. What we do when we read novels is similar to what happens to us when we dream. Freud calls the dream image a rebus (p. 276); in this way, I think he is correct. If there is an image in the novel it is more akin to a rebus, an hallucination of loosely strung together spectral thoughts. We free associate when we read a novel; what comes before our mind’s eye are parts and pieces that do not form an entirely thought together whole. In the novel's image, like the dream, parts stand for wholes. Novels are constituted by their love for particularities. Epics and grand eloquent drama are the stuff of another art form; they form archetypical images. Novels are a unique art form in that they work similarly to the way our minds work. Novels arose as the predominant art form because they privilege individual experience over grand narrative; the mundane and the banal are championed in the novel over the hero trope and archetype. It is not the photographic image that is desired in the novel, but rather, what we see in the novel is the recognition that the mirror is broken; we see in the novel a skewed mirror and we call it real.



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