Conference & Events

Reading Salon 5: "Close Reading"
Author:    Time:2020-11-23    Click:

CLOSE READING: A report from Li Ruoya, a Salon Participant

        On December 13, 2019, the Reading Salon sponsored by Journal of Foreign languages and Culture was held in Tenglong Building, Hunan Normal University. Ding Hongwei, distinguished professor in Peking University, professor Zeng Yanyu, professor Ruan Wei and professor Liu Shuxiong of Hunan Normal University, together with hundreds of participants, had a heated discussion on such issues as "close reading of the text" and "the path of literary research".

        Starting with the concept of "close reading of the text", professor Ding proposed that reading a text should take into account the context, neither generalizing it too broadly, nor creating something out of nothing with a "magnifying glass". He pointed out that in literary research, we should respect the original works and be readers before we can better understand the original author's ideas and avoid imposing personal ideas onto the original works.

        In this regard, Professor Ruan added that it is of little benefit to read the text carefully without thinking about it. Professor Liu also mentioned that with the rapid development of society, people's reading tends to be fragmented, which also has an imperceptible influence on academic research. Close reading of the text can make readers travel deeper into the text and think more intensely, which is a better reading method and is worth advocating. However, if this is to be regarded as a research method, it still needs to be considered further.

        As for how to grasp the distance from the original works, Professor Ding said that although the distance of literary criticism is difficult to quantify, it is necessary to adhere to a certain distance. He encourages everyone to think from a cross-cultural perspective, and not to rely too heavily on the theories of foreign scholars, nor to blindly follow their footsteps, but rather to have their own individual awareness of problems, and to explore constantly. In the study of comparative literature, the distance between Chinese scholars and foreign original works can also produce new ideas and good theoretical achievements.

        In the environment of the vigorous development of interdisciplinary research, what is the significance of interdisciplinary itself to literary research? Professor Ding said that the emergence of interdisciplinary research has its own inevitabilities: firstly, the work itself involves a wide base of knowledge and interdisciplinary feasibility; secondly, all manner of studies on literary works have always emerged one after another. The emergence of new achievements requires researchers to try different ways of reading, and then to be interdisciplinary. At the same time interdisciplinary research has two sides: on the one hand, it is of great significance for enriching the connotation of the text and deepening the public's understanding of the writer, but on the other, it is easy to produce the "four dissimilarities" of research results. Therefore, interdisciplinary needs to retain the subjectivity of literary studies, but also requires scholars to have outstanding talent in order to take into account the knowledge of the disciplines involved, rather than interdisciplinary for the sake of interdisciplinary.

        As a new type of interdisciplinary research, the emergence of digital humanities means a breakthrough in research methods or will it lead to the loss of the original intention of the research? Professor Zeng said that the establishment of the corpus and the application of big data make information extraction more convenient, but it is precisely because of its convenience that many scholars no longer read the text carefully nor directly analyze the text. Such interdisciplinary measures have deviated from the original intention of study and posed a considerable threat to literary research. Mr. Ding also added that although digital humanities is helpful to literary research, scholars should not lose their personal initiative and mechanically regard literary research as data classification and collection. He also stressed that there are no specific restrictions on interdisciplinary research, but there must not always be a breakthrough in order to break through the boundaries of each field. Writers have their own ideas when creating, and researchers can also study them from different aspects, as long as they can justify themselves and conform to a certain extent to the "meaning framework".

Professor Ruan also said that the academic community has its own discourse system which is constantly innovative. Constantly breaking through the boundaries of the research behavior is not feasible, nor will it be recognized as such by the academic community.

        Finally, Professor Ren Haiyan made a summary of the reading salon, encouraging everyone to be dignified readers, respecting the author, and read the text with diligence. The profound literary background and rigorous academic attitude of the teachers deeply attracted and infected everyone. The venue changed three times, and your enthusiasm was not diminished. Teachers and students talked freely, and yet their thoughts are still unfinished.

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