Close Reading, Epistemology, and Affect: Nabokov After Rorty

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In the context of recent debates about surface reading, critical description, and symptomatic interpretation, this article argues that the work of the philosopher and literary theorist, Richard Rorty, can open up new methodological possibilities for critics concerned with theories and practices of close reading. I suggest that, though Rorty’s own textual analyses routinely fail to respond to the aesthetic distinctiveness of the works he discusses, his accounts of “inspired reading” and “liberal irony” together pave the way for a more compelling critical practice. To substantiate this claim, the second half of the article offers a new reading of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, a novel that, perhaps more concertedly than any other, raises fundamental questions about reading and interpretation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-349
Number of pages27
JournalPhilosophy and Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


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