The Performance of ReadingAn Essay in the Philosophy of Literature
New Directions in Aesthetics 1. Aufl.
The Performance of Reading argues that there are distinct analogies between "silent" reading and artistic performance, and so fashions the new role of the reader as performer. An original and insightful exploration of the act of reading by the leading scholar in the field. Discusses the history of reading and the transitions from reading aloud to reading silently, and the changing role of literature as communal, active experience to a more private endeavor.
Preface. The Performance of Reading. Notes. Bibliography. Index.
"[T]his book is a mine of intriguing speculations, ingenious argument, and stimulating suggestions, made even more attractive by Kivy's engaging style." (David Davies, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (vol. 66, issue 1) "Kivy's is a highly welcome book … .One hopes that Kivy's highly original, thought-provoking book betokens a new wave of scholarship." (Eighteenth-Century Studies) "As always, [Kivy's] style is clear, lively, and engaging. In The Performance of Reading he offers a bold new interpretation of what the reading of literature is. The thesis of this monograph is simple: reading literature is a performance--more precisely, a silent one. 'I read, therefore I perform' ... Readers have an 'experience' not different from the one the ancients had when Homer was performed. It is still as if a voice in one's head is telling a story. Overall, this work is a wonderful addition to the understanding of literature." (Choice)
Peter Kivy is Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University and a past president of the American Society for Aesthetics. He is author of The Possessor and the Possessed: Handel, Mozart, Beethovern, and the Idea of Musical Genius (2001), New Essays on Musical Understanding (2001), and Introduction to a Philosophy of Music (2002), and editor of The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics (Blackwell, 2004).
Of the arts, some are performing arts and some are not. There are performances of musical works, but not of paintings. Literature, in this regard, is a mixed bag. Plays are performed; novels, short stories, and narrative poems are not. And although one can read a play to oneself, or read a novel aloud as a kind of performance, a play is intended to be performed while the contemporary novel is intended to be silently read. But the printed word in its earliest days did not signify silent reading. And in the ancient world, those who could read would read aloud to themselves. The advent of silent reading is relatively new in our history. In this insightful and provocative essay, Peter Kivy argues that there are distinct analogies between “silent” reading and performance. Readers have an “experience” when they read silently to themselves akin to the experience one would have had when the rhapsode recited Homer to the citizens of Plato’s Athens. Kivy makes the case for a deeper understanding and appreciation of literary works by suggesting that readers are performers of the works they read, their performances recitations to the “inner ear.”
"Peter Kivy is probably the most respected aesthetician currently active in the English-speaking philosophical world, and this book is a wholly typical Kivy product, informed by his deep knowledge of music, literature and the history of philosophy from Plato through the 18th century to the present day, and written with his characteristic clarity, charm, and dry wit." —Gary Iseminger, Carleton College "In his new book, Peter Kivy has opened a new domain of philosophical discussion. The Performance of Reading is sure to have the leading journals of aesthetics buzzing with debate, and will also attract and repay the close attention of literary theorists." —Noël Carroll, Temple University "Kivy develops his striking thesis with characteristic elegance, flair and ingenuity. The Performance of Reading is original, provocative, and bound to generate debate." —Alex Neill, University of Southampton
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