Nate Crocker responds to Elaine Auyoung

I want to dwell on Elaine Auyoung’s final “move.” For, when she posits that “recognizing the kinship between reading and perceiving invites us to think much more carefully about the distinctions between them,” Auyoung actually reinstates a difference between reading and perceiving that Coombs tirelessly strives to unsettle. As he asserts, Reading with the Senses “attempts to move beyond the opposition between verbal structures and experience” in order to explore how reading literature is “itself a perceptual experience” (9). While the “kinship” Auyoung proposes is hardly synonymous with the “opposition” Coombs challenges, both words uphold a distinction between the phenomena that they describe a relation between, a distinction that reading purely with the senses resists. For me, Auyoung’s “move” is so interesting because it gestures toward an analytic approach—attending to kinship—that bridges these two seemingly incommensurable interpretations of reading and perception. Instead of understanding these epistemological categories as fundamentally opposed, attending to the ways in which they are “Of the same kind or character” would, as Auyoung suggests, generatively sharpen our critical definitions of each category (OED “akin”). At the same time, attending to likeness, instead of simply conflating the two categories, would also acknowledge some of their hard-to-ignore differences. (For instance, the very real way in which someone like Grandcourt does not exist.)

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