Re-reading / La relecture: Essays in honour of Graham Falconer
What happens when we re-read a familiar book? Does the second encounter turn us into experts, more knowing and confident in our relation to the text? Or conversely, does it expose the gaps and limits of each reading experience? Does re-reading affirm our own sense of identity, reconnecting us to earlier memories, or does it shock and destabilize, revealing discontinuities between past and present selves? Is re-reading uncanny, a discovery of the familiar in the unfamiliar, or the reverse? Do certain literary devices and tropes – symbols, allegories, for example, depend on re-reading to be activated? Are there some texts that can only be re-read? Re-reading is rarely discussed in depth yet it forms the core of most conversations about literature, for we rarely become passionate or critical about books we have only read once. It is also re-reading that consolidates a core of texts into what we recognise to be a canon of literature, and it is re-reading, again, that breaks open the canon and reshapes it. We re-read alone, but we also re-read communally, in the shared space of the theatre, or in the translation of a text from one culture to another, or one medium to another. Re-reading is a necessary part of the professional reader’s life yet there is often, in the history of the individual scholar, some formative relationship with a text read obsessively in childhood.
This bilingual volume of essays brings together an international group of eminent scholars in order to reflect on this process of re-reading, in honour of Graham Falconer, Professor of 19th century French literature, and long-term re-reader. The essays vary from personal reflections on formative childhood reading, and self-reflexive scholarly re-readings, to analysis of the theme of re-reading in texts, and presentation of new theories of re-reading. Gustave Flaubert, Honoré de Balzac, Stendhal, Eugène Fromentin, Guy de Maupassant, Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, Dostoevsky, Mikhail Bakhtin, W. B. Yeats, William Blake, Roland Petit, H. G. Wells and Anthony Hope are amongst the authors re-visited in these reflections on the practice of re-reading.
Graham Falconer, the honorand of this collection, is Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto. Born in Scotland, Graham Falconer has degrees from Oxford University and the University of Aix-Marseille. Before assuming his thirty-year career at the University of Toronto he held teaching positions at the École normale d’instituteurs, Aix-en-Provence, the Folkuniversitet of Sweden, St. John’s College, Oxford and the University of Glasgow. A well-known dix-neuvièmiste, he is the author of numerous articles on genetic criticism and “sociocritique” and has written on Balzac, Flaubert, Zola and Musset.
Andrew Oliver, co-editor, is also Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto. He is author of books on Benjamin Constant, Raymond Radiguet and André Gide, and founding editor of the “Romans de Balzac” series. He is co-founder and co-director of the scholarly journal, Texte.
Rachel Falconer, co-editor, is Professor of English Literature, University of Lausanne. She is author of books on John Milton, on literary katabasis or descents to Hell, and crossover literature for children and adults, as well as editor of collections on Mikhail Bakhtin, and literature and science.
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