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The Suspension of Reading: Wordsworth's 'Boy of Winander' and Trauma Theory

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Organization
Abstract
This article offers a close reading of the different versions of Wordsworth's ''Boy of Winander''-passage and of an important exchange between Geoffrey Hartman and Paul de Man on this passage in the 1960s, in which ''reading'' and ''theory'' are contrasted as two mutually exclusive options that cannot be combined in one critical account. This tension between reading and theory is then deployed to offer a critique of the field of trauma theory, which has explicitly instituted itself as both a theory and a reading practice. I develop the position of Hartman in order to contrast trauma theory's prevailing fascination with theory, which invests in the figure of a ''fall'' and in the notion of ''undecidability,'' with the (to my mind, more promising) possibility of an account of the experience of reading, which consists in the ''suspension'' of theory and deploys a notion of ''indeterminacy'' that ultimately gives a more satisfying account of the implication of the reader in the relation between literature and trauma.
Keywords
Wordsworth, trauma, Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, Boy of Winander, indeterminacy

Citation

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Chicago
Vermeulen, Pieter. 2007. “The Suspension of Reading: Wordsworth’s ‘Boy of Winander’ and Trauma Theory.” Orbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies 62 (6): 459–482.
APA
Vermeulen, P. (2007). The Suspension of Reading: Wordsworth’s “Boy of Winander” and Trauma Theory. Orbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies, 62(6), 459–482.
Vancouver
1.
Vermeulen P. The Suspension of Reading: Wordsworth’s “Boy of Winander” and Trauma Theory. Orbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies. 2007;62(6):459–82.
MLA
Vermeulen, Pieter. “The Suspension of Reading: Wordsworth’s ‘Boy of Winander’ and Trauma Theory.” Orbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies 62.6 (2007): 459–482. Print.
@article{1059702,
  abstract     = {This article offers a close reading of the different versions of Wordsworth's ''Boy of Winander''-passage and of an important exchange between Geoffrey Hartman and Paul de Man on this passage in the 1960s, in which ''reading'' and ''theory'' are contrasted as two mutually exclusive options that cannot be combined in one critical account. This tension between reading  and theory is then deployed to offer a critique of the field of trauma theory, which has explicitly instituted itself as both a theory and a reading practice. I develop the position of Hartman in order to contrast trauma theory's prevailing fascination with theory, which invests in the figure of a ''fall'' and in the notion of ''undecidability,'' with the (to my mind, more promising) possibility of an account of the experience of reading, which consists in the ''suspension'' of theory and deploys a notion of ''indeterminacy'' that ultimately gives a more satisfying account of the implication of the reader in the relation between literature and trauma.},
  author       = {Vermeulen, Pieter},
  issn         = {0105-7510},
  journal      = {Orbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies},
  keyword      = {Wordsworth,trauma,Paul de Man,Geoffrey Hartman,Boy of Winander,indeterminacy},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {6},
  pages        = {459--482},
  title        = {The Suspension of Reading: Wordsworth's 'Boy of Winander' and Trauma Theory},
  volume       = {62},
  year         = {2007},
}

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