Novels

Yesterday I gave my students an article entitled "The Aesthetics of Reading" which was published in 2002 in the journal Aesthetic Education. The articles thesis was that there are several exceedingly important mental skills that we acquire from reading novels that we do not acquire from watching movies, or even from reading other types of printed material. Specifically, he identified three things 1) the way time is treated in novels, which is rarely a natural chronological flow; 2) the way we have to remember characters, part of a skill he called "funding" and 3) the depiction of conciousness, in the form especially of reading a character's internal thoughts. In all these things he said that the reader's experience of a novel over a very long period of time, at least days if not weeks and months, makes for a very different mental experience than seeing the same narrative in movie form. The elongation of the unfolding of the narrative heightens our reliance on the mental skills of memory and gives us, more importantly, critical time to process and understand the narrative. Breaking up the continuum of time gives us an opportunity to reflect on the reality of time, and by getting to know a group of characters through a novel we have an opportunity to reflect on human nature.

It was this latter point I have been thinking about a lot lately, as we have been reading Smilla's Sense of Snow. We also, by the way, watched the movie. But it seems to me Peter Hoeg's point in writing this novel was not so much to describe a crime, but rather to delve deeply into the human psyche. Novelists are surgeons of human emotions, always wanting to dissect them more and more finely. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I do note that Smilla's Sense of Snow ends specifically with the point that there will be no resolution.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Stórfjölskylda mín notar iðulega heimagerðan málshátt til að lýsa þessu. "Mér fannst bókin betri sagði hesturinn þegar hann át filmuna"
kveðja Halla

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