Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Exposing the wound

Last night in class, before my triumphal departure from the building face first down a set of concrete steps (can you say "sprained thumb") we had an in-depth discussion on Jane Eyre. It has been a long time since I sat in a classroom, and even longer since I sat around discussing a book in such a manner. I've never joined a book group mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to be obligated to not only reading a book that is not of my choosing but also because, well, I'm lazy.

For almost the entire class period last night, which is 3 hours long, we discussed Jane Eyre. I might have noted before (and I'm too lazy to go look it up) that this is the first time I have read this novel. I feel all gushy and happy for Jane and find her to be such a likeable heroine; however, after talking about motives and characterization and dialogue amongst other things for so long last night, I realized my failing.

You see, I approached Jane Eyre as a recreational reader and wanted nothing more than to be entertained. While I thought I was reading deeply, it is obvious that I really wasn't and the class discussion helped me to see that. And what I find so worrisome is that I am afraid that what I am is a "recreational reader" when what I desire to be is a scholar. As a reader who is reading for pleasure, I'm satisfied with superficial explanations, whereas a scholar scrapes off the scab and exposes the wound. The problem is that once the wound is exposed the scar will always remain and the book will never have that same meaning. There will always be the possibility that one will look at everything with a jaundiced eye, searching for ulterior motives and attempting to discern the meaning behind disingenuous conversation. On the other hand there exists the possibility that with a closer reading the book will have an even deeper meaning for the reader in the future.

It's a scary prospect, this close reading of a book. I wonder if I can handle it. Five page (max.) prospectus due on Monday concerning the book we're going to write about for our casebook. Will it be Mrs. Dalloway or The Stranger? No one can say for certain, especially me, and I have to do the work!

No comments: