Afterword: responsible reading and cultural distance

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2011 Number 73

Afterword: responsible reading and cultural distance
Derek Attridge pages -


This essay asks how we can account for the experience of inventiveness when we read a work that arises from, and on its initial publication spoke to, a significantly different cultural context from our own. To what extent does a responsible reading of such a work imply a project of countering any sense of inventiveness that arises solely from the cultural distance between the contexts of production and of reception? If so, how can this be achieved? How can we know if it has been achieved? If, on the other hand, it is legitimate to capitalize on effects of inventiveness that arise from cultural difference, how can we avoid reducing the work to an example of pleasurable exoticism? The example of Alaa al-Aswany’s novel The Yacoubian Building is used to discuss these issues, concluding that the inevitable disparity that arises under such circumstances need not disqualify a reading; the responsibility of the reader is not to undertake a reconstruction of the original moment of reception in the home culture but to allow the norms of the host culture to be challenged by whatever is experienced as inventive in the work.

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Purchase an annual Personal Subscription
    PRINT + DIGITAL personal subscription (£45 / year)
    DIGITAL personal subscription (£30 / year)
    A Personal Subscription provides immediate access not only to the single article you are seeking, but also to all past and future articles in this journal up to the expiry of your annual (calendar year) subscription.
  4. Purchase immediate access to this single article (UK£7.00) - Buy article Coming Soon

To cite this article
Derek Attridge (2011) Afterword: responsible reading and cultural distance, New Formations, 2011(73), -

Share this