Saturday, June 25, 2016

Readers Wanted

In What is Literature?, philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre observes that, unlike shoemakers and architects, writers can't consume their own products.

When a writer writes, Sartre says, he sees the words; but never the way readers will. 

The writer is a projector, and his future always the blank page, whereas the reader is a consumer whose future is "some number of pages filled with words that separate him from the end," Sartre says.

Writers can produce, but never feel, their words.

"The writer meets everywhere only his knowledge, his will, his plans, in short, himself. He touches only his own subjectivity; the object he creates is out of reach; he does not create it for himself.

"If he rereads himself, it is already too late. The sentence will never quite be a thing in his eyes. He goes to the very limits of the subjective but without crossing it. He appreciates the effect of a touch, of an epigram, of a well-placed adjective, but it is the effect they will have on others. He can judge it, not feel it."

Since writers can't really read their products, Sartre says, they need readers to do so. 

In fact, for a piece of writing even to exist, readers are required.

"To make it come into view a concrete act called reading is necessary, and it lasts only as long as this act can last. Beyond that, there are only black marks on paper."
Powered by Blogger.