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Close but not Deep: The Use of Richness in Love’s Literary Ethics and the Descriptive Turn

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Heather Love starts her essay, “That there is perhaps no term that carries more value in the humanities than ‘rich’. In literary studies, especially, richness is an undisputed - if largely uninterrogated good…” (371). She uses the word rich and richness multiple times since it is connected with interpreting and deep reading, but the critic loses richness, when he practices surface reading.
Love asserts at the beginning of her essay, “richness signifies qualities associated with the complexity polyvalence of texts and with the warmth and depth of experience” (371). One of the definitions of richness is, according to the OED, “Abundance of some good constituent; lushness; depth, fullness” (“richness”). She acknowledges that texts, which exhibit depth and fundamental principles, have intrinsic value. The texts that are associated with richness usually have multiple meanings and are open to a number of different interpretations, yet the texts should also exhibit human experience. There is a whole science around the richness of a text, called hermeneutics, which means “The study or analysis of how texts, utterances, or actions are interpreted” (“hermeneutics”). Different methods of evaluation the depth of a text have been applied.
The “hermeneutic activity –the practice of close reading” (373) is what Love evaluates next. The practice of close reading became the framework of hermeneutics in the early 20th century and has been the foundation of text evaluation since then, no matter what different literary approaches and cultural changes were present, since “the richness of texts continues to serve as a carrier for an allegedly superannuated humanism”(373). Her own assertion regarding the interpretation of texts can be interpreted in sev...


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...emerge with the use of scientific sociologic methods. However, one method does not have to exclude the other method, as Love seems suggest with her ending sentence, “who among us is willing to exchange the fat and the living for the thin and dead?” (388). Descriptive reading could enhance close reading. Description leads to interpretation and is part of richness.



Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick, and David W. Blight. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: With Related Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. Print.
"hermeneutics, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 30 April 2014.
Love, Heather. "Close but Not Deep: Literary Ethics and the Descriptive Turn." New Literary History 41.2 (2010): 371-91. Project Muse. Web. 30 April 2014.
"richness, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 1 May 2014.



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