The Crafty Reader

The Crafty Reader

Robert Scholes
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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    The Crafty Reader
    Book Description:

    "I believe that it is in our interest as individuals to become crafty readers, and in the interest of the nation to educate citizens in the craft of reading. The craft, not the art. . . . This book is about that craft."-from the IntroductionThis latest book from the well-known literary critic Robert Scholes presents his thoughtful exploration of the craft of reading. He deals with reading not as an art or performance given by a virtuoso reader, but as a craft that can be studied, taught, and learned. Those who master the craft of reading, Scholes contends, will justifiably take responsibility for the readings they produce and the texts they choose to read.Scholes begins with a critique of the New Critical way of reading ("bad for poets and poetry and really terrible for students and teachers of poetry"), using examples of poems by various writers, in particular Edna St. Vincent Millay. He concludes with a consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of the fundamentalist way of reading texts regarded as sacred.To explain and clarify the approach of the crafty reader, the author analyzes a wide-ranging selection of texts by figures at the margins of the literary and cultural canon, including Norman Rockwell, Anaïs Nin, Dashiell Hammett, and J. K. Rowling. Throughout his discussion Scholes emphasizes how concepts of genre affect the reading process and how they may work to exclude certain texts from the cultural canon and curriculum.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12887-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction Reading as a Craft (pp. xi-xviii)

    Fernand Léger, writing in 1924, and Walter Benjamin, in 1936, offer us two ways into the complex relationship between art and craft. For Benjamin craft was a quality to be found in the work of a nineteenth-century storyteller like Nikolai Leskov, who drew consciously upon the methods and materials of an earlier age. The verbal arts, Benjamin felt, were suffering in an age dominated by “information,” rootless factoids that threatened both the earlier modes of “storytelling” (epic and tale) and also the forms that had replaced them—the novel and the short story. His brilliant essay “The Storyteller,” from which...

  5. Reading Poetry A Lost Craft (pp. 1-75)

    Thus Arnold Bennett, almost a century ago, in his little bookLiterary Taste: How to Form It(Bennett 69). No doubt he exaggerated just a bit. (I love the “historical examples.”) But we take his point. I knew it, in fact, before I had found and read his words, knew it before I wrote what is (and shall remain) the longest essay of my life with the dread word squarely there in the title. But I had thought the problem was more recent, that, in the good old days, poetry was accorded its rightful place at the top of the...

  6. Reading the World Textual Realities (pp. 76-103)

    We live in a textual reality. One does not have to be a French philosopher to know this. Most young people know it, whether they are fully conscious of this knowledge or not. And most of their elders know it, whether they care to admit it or not. On this occasion I want to explore with you some of the implications of this knowledge. But first, I must try to explain just what I mean by “textual reality”—and what I do not mean. Let me start with the negative: what I do not mean. I am not trying to...

  7. Heavy Reading The Monstrous Personal Chronicle as a Genre (pp. 104-137)

    My four epigraphs are taken from works written by English men and women between the late 1920s and 1941. As a group, they should help us identify and begin to think about a literary phenomenon of the period, which is the flourishing, or, as one of the four remarked astringently, the pullulating, of diaries, journals, reflections, and other forms of prose composition marked by very personal perspectives, on the one hand, and a certain looseness of form, on the other. The first of these four quotations comes from T. E. Lawrence’s narrative of his experiences during the First World War,...

  8. Light Reading The Private-Eye Novel as a Genre (pp. 138-182)

    My whole intent in this book is to connect the ordinary with the extraordinary: the humble text with the exalted text, the sacred with the profane, the common reader with the uncommon writer, and the common writer with the uncommon reader. As a teacher I have for years seen a major part of my task as helping students to see reading as a craft, a set of methods or practices that can be learned, a skill that can be improved by anyone willing to make an effort, though it can never be entirely mastered by any person, however gifted and...

  9. Fantastic Reading Science Fantasy as a Genre (pp. 183-211)

    My epigraphs are linked by their employment of a similar concept: a representation, an image, well or ill drawn, with a verbal caption that asserts or denies some linkage between the image and a category of reality. I find it interesting that the Victorian fantasist and the modern surrealist should hit upon the same formula for raising the question of reference and representation. Their differences are also instructive. The fantasist is mainly concerned with how to achieve the power of illusion, to generate authenticity for his illusion. The surrealist, on the other hand, progresses from questioning the status of images...

  10. Sacred Reading A Fundamental Problem (pp. 212-239)

    We begin to learn how to read at home, perhaps, but the craft of reading is developed within larger institutional frameworks. In this country, at this time, that craft is taught mainly in churches and in schools. Throughout this book I have been concerned with how readers may learn the craft of reading, but I have also considered, from time to time, how it should—and should not—be taught. In this final essay I shall address more directly the question of the institutional sites from which ways of reading are advocated and in which they are taught. And in...

  11. Conclusion A Crafty Reader (pp. 240-244)

    My epigraph is truly graphic, an image rather than a set of words. Let us read it. It shows a reader, reading, who is also a craftsman, holding a tool of his craft, an axe. His head is in the clouds, literally. His feet are on the ground. Behind his feet, in the distance, is a tiny cabin, possibly made of logs, with smoke coming out of its chimney. Closer to him is a fence made of rails split from logs. His coat is over his reading arm, as if he might have removed it to do some work with...

  12. Works Cited (pp. 245-250)
  13. Index (pp. 251-260)


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