on the relationship between literature and real life.
Posted by Kate on January 19, 1998 at 14:05:18:
In response to NA horrors today, written by Carolyn B on January 19, 1998 at 12:46:38
] I'm going to try to wax philosophical on my day off, so please excuse any incoherency:
] In NA, Catherine confuses what happens in fiction with what happens in real life. To what extent do we all do that? How much is our perception of reality shaped by what we read, what we see on TV and in the movies vs. what we actually experience for ourselves?
Would you like a contribution from another scholarly introduction?
My edition has an intro by Professor Terry Castle of Stanford University (that's in California, for those non-USers.)
She has a very interesting bit on NA as an early feminist text... more on that in another post. However, and this struck home rather forcefully, she also has an interesting bit on the folly of letting one's literary pursuits take over from real life...
"Austen uses her herione's absorbtion in romantic fiction, and the distresssing consequences it produces, to broach certain large moral, philosophical, and social issues: the folly of letting literature get in the way of life, the inexcusabilty of not thinking for oneself, the parinful difficulties involve - especially for women - in growing up.
"The 'no' in Northanger Abbey [she's done this whole thing about the importance of "no" and "negation" in the novel] is not merely to a kind of literature... but to a certain conception of the relationship between literature and experience, and, beyond that, to a certain conception of what it means to be a heroine. CM is foolish...in part because she lets what she has read, rathter than the evidence of her own eyes, shape her vision of life...
[she then quotes the passage where CM says that the scenery looks like the south of france, which she knows only from books]
...Catherine has read too much and observed too little; she cannot see the living forest, so to speak, for the the fictional trees."
I think Catherine's problem is that the kind of the literature she was reading is so little connected with real life that it encouraged her not to accept the evidence of her own eyes. "Good" literature should encourage one to engage with and struggle with the realities of human existence... and Catherine certainly wasn't reading that!
The question is, then, what is the kind of literature (or other medium) that is the equivalent of Mrs Radcliffe in our own time? Maybe it is the rush of "reality TV" (which bears little relationship to reality). Maybe it's Harlequin novels. Maybe it's the X-files!
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