18 mar. 2004

Finally, on the issue of "respect for the reader." The assumption is that poetry in the avant-garde tradition fails to respect the reader, because it is avant-garde and a particular reader may not know how to read such a text. This argument seems circular to me. Can we assume the ideal reader to be truly literate? Doesn't adult, educated literacy assume some acquaintance with the past 150 years of literary history? How is it disrespectful to assume your reader has some strategies for approaching a slightly "difficult" text, one that might not adopt the folksy Edgar Guest mode favored by the new formalists? Henry Gould expects me to know who Joyce and John Berryman are before I read his poetry, for example. I don't see that as disrespectful in the least. I choose Henry here because he is not particularly "avant." He's writing in the mid-century tradition of the New Critics, Lowell, and Berryman, which did assume a somewhat better-educated reader.

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