Monday, November 13, 2006

Atmospheric Displacements

The experience of any text will invariably be conditioned by extra-literary circumstances, including one's psychological state(s) at the time of reading(s) and where, in fact, one reads. I cannot speak in depth about the first element, not being a depth psychologist, but would argue that the second element is of supreme importance. In my experience, reading a geographically specific text well outside or beyond the environment in which the novel or poem or whatever takes place will root and uproot one's reading marvelously.

For example, I re-read Joyce's ULYSSES while wandering about China, so my Chinese backdrop intensified and de-centered Leopold Bloom's Dublin wanderings. MOBY DICK, a tale which unfolds in New Bedford, Massachusetts, heads to the island of Nantucket (also in Massachusetts) and then high-tails it (o, the pun of it) to the high seas, was greatly affected by re-reading it in Dublin. Hawthorne and his Yankee tales pored over on a beach in San Diego? A marvelous transvaluation of vision, scenery, and setting! I wonder if anyone out there has been similarly dazzled by the cross-conditioning of text and terrain?