A Self-Reflexive Reflection

It’s FRIDAY! I am so happy about this fact. Although I’m not going home until after 10 tonight, I don’t have to wake up until 8 tomorrow and that is a wonderful concept for my brain to latch onto as it’s wading through the last hours of the first week of school.

For those of you who haven’t been to college ever or perhaps it’s been a while, the first week is hectic. Often your classes are still up in the air so you’re running around like a crazy person to two or three that you’re trying to add or thinking about adding and doing a little homework for every class but getting completely and horribly behind even though that seems impossible because school only started a couple of days ago. But that’s almost all under control. I’ve decided on my classes and done almost all my homework for a couple of them and so I can enter next week with a little less trepidation, except for the fact that I have to do my English Teaching Application because I haven’t learned how to not procrastinate yet. Oh well I’ll be quite a bit older and wiser on Sunday so maybe that will help me out.

So I wasn’t even going to post today, except my favorite person/writer/blogger/dresser is randomly in my American Literature class (which I love btw) and after reading my journal response to the class yesterday mentioned that I should post it on here. So here I am posting.

A Self-Reflexive Reflection

Although I encountered and discussed the term self reflexive in previous classes I never gave much engaged thought to the subject. I could identify it in a piece of literature, and tell you that it’s a major trend in post-modernism, but I never ventured to question why. However, with a text like The Uncommon Reader that disarms the reader with its snarky narrator and takes them on a self analyzing journey, I finally have the inclination to delve into the point of all this. And so I pose the question: why do writers write about writing and why do readers care to read it?

As Anne of Green Gables and Jo March can attest, often the best writing comes from writing what you know. And not surprisingly, most writers spend a lot time reading and even more time writing, meaning their experience pool is heavily weighted with these two activities. I’ve often wondered if the vast number of well read protagonists is horribly disproportional to the real world. Part of Harry Potter’s popularity is no doubt a result of his gloriously normal uncultured mind. But this assumption is tricky, because although readers identify with Harry, they wish they had Hermione’s brain. Each well read protagonist is a representation of what readers wish they were. Few of us are Hermione Grangers, but the majority of readers do it because they enjoy it and they relish little lines like, “A book is a device to ignite the imagination” (Bennett 34) because they understand it, they’ve experienced it, and it connects them a little bit more with the ideal, with the Hermione, they all want to be.

But clearly Postmodernists don’t write self-reflexively just because it makes their readers feel warm and fuzzy. I don’t think Samuel Beckett or Thomas Pynchon are even capable of writing warm and fuzzy. As books become less popular with the passing years, I sense an underlying justification in their self-reflexivity. They must answer the question “why write?” because they feel like the question hasn’t been sufficiently answered, or because the world hasn’t accepted their answer. I know why Alan Bennett writes: because he wants a voice. Because in books you “have your convictions corroborated” (Bennett 114) and because “[t]o write you have to be tough” (Bennett 105). And those are ideals even non readers can identify with.

Even as I find answers to my question of why, I’m left to wonder how it actually fits into post-modernism. You see, I’ve observed a bit of a paradox: in a period where authors write so much about the absence of truth and meaning, I feel that they are grasping for both in the very act of writing. Take the above mentioned quote for instance, in books you can “have your convictions corroborated” (Bennett 114), you can discover the truth of your very own feelings. After reading the queen notes that, “previously she wouldn’t have cared what the maid thought or that she might have hurt her feelings, only now she did” (Bennett 49). This ability to experience outside of one’s own sphere allows for an enhanced understanding. If truth doesn’t exist, then why write? If there is no meaning, why create? And I guess I’m back to my original question without any definitive answers. But somehow I think that’s the point. It’s where every writer returns when they look at a blank sheet of paper.

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2 thoughts on “A Self-Reflexive Reflection

  1. You are the second person in a week that has mentioned the Uncommon Reader. I guess I will have to check it out. And I liked this post, and your insights. I am a fellow bookworm, and I appreciate your thoughts.

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