Excessive Suspension of Disbelief: Raymond Jean's La Lectrice

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Excessive Suspension of Disbelief: Raymond Jean's La Lectrice

When I begin a class in fiction or poetry, I always talk for a few minutes about the various purposes of literature: escape, didactic, and interpretive. I tell my students that escape literature is a wonderful way to forget our problems for a while (less dangerous than drugs, alcohol, careless sex, or driving), but that escape literature can be harmful if one expects one's personal life to be as exciting, successful, or romantic as that in escape fiction. As Meg Ryan's friend says to her in Sleepless in Seattle, "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie." Thus my title, "Excessive Suspension...."
In The Literary Work of Art (1931, trans. 1965),
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It involves mentally perceiving the person, object, or action that is represented by a word or phrase. When one hears or reads the word "cat," one mentally pictures a cat. At this level the reader recognizes what the words and sentences signify, but perceives only that which is specified. When one reads "See
Jane. See Jane run," one "sees" Jane and the running, but may not think of Jane's surroundings or world. All of the lectrice's listeners respond at this level. These first three levels are the ones by which we learn about words and how to read when we are children and the ones by which we learn to access a foreign language. These three steps are essential to one's being able to read and understand a text.
The fourth level involves filling in or constructing the whole picture of Jane running-on a sidewalk, by the grass, in front of a white house, etc. (When I talk to my students about this level
I say, "A cat ran up the tree" and then ask several of them the size and color of the cat, the kind of tree, etc. Their answers vary greatly because they have filled in different worlds around the cat. At this level, the reader's experience is like looking through a window at a scene or incident.
One sees all that is going on, but one doesn't participate in it

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