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Close But Not Deep: The Use Of Richness In Love’s Literary Ethics And The Descriptive Turn

1602 words - 7 pages

Heather Love starts her essay, “That there is perhaps no term that carries more value in the humanities than ‘rich’. In literary studies, especially, richness is an undisputed - if largely uninterrogated good…” (371). She uses the word rich and richness multiple times since it is connected with interpreting and deep reading, but the critic loses richness, when he practices surface reading.
Love asserts at the beginning of her essay, “richness signifies qualities associated with the complexity polyvalence of texts and with the warmth and depth of experience” (371). One of the definitions of richness is, according to the OED, “Abundance of some good constituent; lushness; depth, fullness” (“richness”). She acknowledges that texts, which exhibit depth and fundamental principles, have intrinsic value. The texts that are associated with richness usually have multiple meanings and are open to a number of different interpretations, yet the texts should also exhibit human experience. There is a whole science around the richness of a text, called hermeneutics, which means “The study or analysis of how texts, utterances, or actions are interpreted” (“hermeneutics”). Different methods of evaluation the depth of a text have been applied.
The “hermeneutic activity –the practice of close reading” (373) is what Love evaluates next. The practice of close reading became the framework of hermeneutics in the early 20th century and has been the foundation of text evaluation since then, no matter what different literary approaches and cultural changes were present, since “the richness of texts continues to serve as a carrier for an allegedly superannuated humanism”(373). Her own assertion regarding the interpretation of texts can be interpreted in several ways, she says the humanism is “superannuated”, which means it is aged and should be retired, yet she says it is only “allegedly” so. Either humanism is old or it is not; this in-between is an ambivalent and therefore rich position to allude to.
However, she asserts that in the new century new approaches to traditional hermeneutics were developed with the help of digital computational powers, such as Moretti’s “distant reading” (374), where he “refuses the richness of the singular literary text in favor of the production of knowledge on an enlarged scale” (374). Moretti looks upon patterns in large volumes of work; therefore, he draws his conclusions through deductive reasoning, instead of coming to general interpretations from inductive reasoning. Love then says that Moretti “sacrifices richness – and turns it into data”, which leads to being able “to observe literature as a vast geographical and historical system” (374). It might be that new maps and connections could be found, but if the richness is missing, then there must be depth in interpretation missing as well. People live in a three-dimensional world and compress literary works into two dimensions in order to make them flat. This seems a step backward,...

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