Carolyn Dever responds to Milan Terlunen

Terlunen suggests that there’s a particular benefit to us scholars of the nineteenth-century novel—of “loose, baggy monster” fame, and heft—to the challenge Auyoung presents in When Fiction Feels Real. Rather than pretend it’s possible to “close read” an entire realist novel, Terlunen encourages the strategic embrace of paraphrase, with the objective of bringing our accounts “more aligned with the ‘ordinary’ ways of reading which—despite our best efforts and training—we’re constantly slipping into.” Like both Bartoszynska and me, Terlunen responds to the disciplinary corrective Auyoung’s book ventures. Of the three, Terlunen’s response engages most directly with Auyoung’s concept of the “ordinary reader,” and he and Bartoszynska both critique assumptions that remain embedded in Auyoung’s thinking—in Terlunen’s case, the oversimplification (and ahistoricity) of the concept of readerly agency. Ultimately, all three of our responses converge toward agreement about the sense that literary professionals, ourselves included, still have a lot to learn about writers, readers, and the meaning of literary meaning.

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