Carolyn Dever responds to Katarzyna Bartoszynska

Bartoszynska hits the nail on the head with her opening observation: “[W]e lack terminology for the kinds of things that [Auyoung’s] work invites us to pay attention to.” Though I think Bartoszynska offers this in the spirit of critique, I see this uncertainty as part of the point. I believe that the rich and paradoxical insight of Auyoung’s book is what we might call the “inference effect,” a process set in motion differently within different dynamics of literary exchange. Writers use widely varied strategies to evoke vividness, or verisimilitude—and the same is true for their readers. In the book’s conclusion, Auyoung writes: “Something obscured by our abiding disciplinary emphasis on how novels provide readers with the knowledge and abilities they lack, however, is how much literary experience is entwined with what readers already know and are able to do” (120). Auyoung offers a collaborative model of meaning making in realist novels—a process that is irreducible to the nomenclature of our discipline because the discipline itself exists to protect its own—typically rarefied—models of meaning. What’s truly surprising, then, is how much common ground varied authors and their varied readers share as they construct the imaginative spaces that put the “real” in “realism.”

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