Do I need new specs?

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"If writers want us-all of us- to notice something, thry'd better put it out there where we'll find it."

Foster, page 205

In Foster's chapter entitled "He's Blind for a Reason, You Know," Foster makes mention of the idea that authors should make pivotal ideas, symbols, and/or all other manners of important literary elements/devices obvious to the audience if it is something that will play an important part with regards to the plot of the story.  I found this quote's appearance in this particular chapter interesting.  Here we have Foster speaking about reasons for characters being blind, but then we realize that readers can be blind, too.  How many times do readers miss important details that are right in front of them?

 This is where close reading comes in.  I know for a fact that I've become much better at reading between the lines.  Rereading can often bring light to items and details that might have been missed.  Foster makes a very valid point with regards to authors, though.  If it is important, why would the author hide it from the audience? While the author must not play smoke and mirrors with important details (at least not to an unnecessary extent...some mystery is a good thing every now and then), readers must examine literature closely in order to ascertain all that is placed before them.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/03/foster_how_to_read_literature_4/

6 Comments

You make an interesting point about how readers can be blind to some important details. But should reading literature be a scavenger hunt? If an author hasn't made something apparent, is it really the reader's job to go and find it? I'm just playing devil's advocate here, but I do think that good writing doesn't hide the most important details from the reader. Really good writing can often have layers beneath the surface that enhance the story that may not be immediately apparent to the reader, but not knowing about these layers shouldn't detract from understanding the overall story. The trick is to make these details apparent while still being subtle and not simplistically bashing the reader over the head with them. For instance, an audience member may not pick up on the metaphorical blindness in Oedipus Rex, but it's still easy enough to understand that Oedipus blinded himself because he was so upset at finding out the truth. Realizing how the literal events reflect the deeper truths of the story helps you understand the work of literature on a more complex level, not realizing this doesn't obscure your understanding of the story entirely.

Christopher Dufalla said:

I see your point, Matt, and the devil's advocate is all well and good in this situation. Agreed: readers should not have to hunt for every little detail within literature, but every now and then a little looking is intriguing. Sometimes readers gain knowledge of important details that are seemingly frivolous until the puzzle becomes clearer. Perhaps blindness isn't always the case, just blurred vision.

April Minerd said:

You both have excellent points. I came into this class as an inexperienced reader, never concerning myself with anything beyond surface text, and I enjoyed books, just as well then, without any knowledge of these extra depths. The only difference is now I can appreciate them more for those intriguing details. The average reader is doubtfully delving into a novel for hidden depths and trap door meanings, but simply taking the work at a face value of entertainment. Writers must be in sync with their audience whether they be the casual or the studious. Maybe studious isn’t entirely fitting because the ambiguities of literature can be appreciate by those other than students, but I feel that the category of readers who fall into this group are fewer than those who read for a purpose of enjoyment alone.

Rosalind Blair said:

Chris, very insightful blog! While reading, I found myself agreeing with Foster about authors hiding important things from the readers. Through the close reading exercises and our class discussions, I have formed the opinion that the things "between the lines" are put there for readers who want to gain something extra from a piece of literature. But, if a reader would rather focus on the plot or only the words on the page, they are still able to have a good reading experience and are still able to gain something from the reading they have completed.

Christopher Dufalla said:

I think that sometimes it's that camouflage effecct: we as readers don't always see a detail until we're directly on top of it or until something else has "rustled the surrounding leaves".

Georgia Speer said:

After reading Chris’s blog and the others responses it does pop out to me that it does seem strange that a writer may not put all things out there and make it obvious to the reader. However, can it be than how important is it to the writer to get their point across? Because if the majority of people are not educated on close reading and reading into more depth than what is there in front of them, than it seems pointless. If the writer is writing for the audience to receive their message than it needs to be obvious, I would say unless a person has taken a course like this to and is educated on looking further into literature than the writer is simply writing for themselves and the few that may interpret their code.

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Georgia Speer on Do I need new specs?: After reading Chris’s blog and
Christopher Dufalla on Do I need new specs?: I think that sometimes it's th
Rosalind Blair on Do I need new specs?: Chris, very insightful blog! W
April Minerd on Do I need new specs?: You both have excellent points
Christopher Dufalla on Do I need new specs?: I see your point, Matt, and th
Matt Henderson on Do I need new specs?: You make an interesting point