‘Why Read Literature?’: Appeasing the Appetite for Play

Pagan, Nicholas Osborne (2018) ‘Why Read Literature?’: Appeasing the Appetite for Play. Journal of Language, Literature and Culture, 65 (1). pp. 11-22. ISSN 2051-2856, DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/20512856.2018.1443630.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/20512856.2018.1443630


This article begins by questioning the ethical turn in literary studies (Hillis Miller, Attridge) and suggests that this redirection has tended to downplay the importance of what Friedrich Schiller had labelled ‘the play-drive’ (Spieltrieb). Drawing on neuroscientist Jaak Panskepp’s findings concerning the primacy of the play instincts, the article focuses on Wolfgang Iser’s ‘literary anthropology’ and a theory of reading that can describe games played by authors and readers in what, following Freud, may be called a ‘playground’ (Tummelplatz). Iser’s concepts ‘the fictive’ and ‘the imaginary’ are then placed alongside traditional concepts from play theory to explore an extract from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in which the protagonist plays with and dismembers a doll. This analysis appropriates, in particular, Iser’s ideas in order to highlight the fundamentally playful nature of our engagement with literature.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Freud; Iser; Literary; Morrison; Play drive; Play theory; Reader-response
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Ms. Juhaida Abd Rahim
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2019 03:54
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2019 03:54
URI: http://eprints.um.edu.my/id/eprint/21050

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