Sven Birkerts “Paging the Self” in The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age depicts a theory of reading that reminds one of Ricoeur’s enlargement of the self through appropriation.
We don’t entirely become Holden [protagonist of Catcher in the Rye], but we abide by the terms of the world he narrates to us, agreeing to its provisions at least for the duration of our reading. […] And as we read, we find that Holden’s (or any character’s) world manifests a kind of wholeness. We do not learn so much from the novel itself, the lessons of its situations, as we do from having strayed free of our customary boundaries. On return, those boundaries seem more articulated, more our own; we understand their degree of permeability, and this is a vital kind of knowing.
This schema appears to suppose a fictional world that is complete (and comparable to the actual world). However it is possible to understand fictional worlds as incomplete.
While minimal departure assumes that fictional entities possess the same ontological fullness as real objects, Doležel invokes PW [Possible World] theory in support of a semantic model that stresses the radical incompleteness of fictional worlds: because it is impossible for the human mind to imagine an object (much less a world) in all of its properties, every fictional world presents areas of radical indeterminacy. It is a waste of time to ask how many children Lady Macbeth had, because the number of her children is never specified. As can be seen from this example, such a lack of information constitutes an ontological gap inherent to fictional worlds.
Radical indeterminacy — I would venture to say that the incompleteness of fictional worlds makes us ready to question wholeness questioned and so too the transformation of the reader. What is at work is ongoing construction. The kind of wholeness that Birkerts finds in the novel is a mirror of the wholeness he accords the self: the complete individual. But what if the self is an ongoing project? Do we then need worlds that manifest wholeness?
And so for day 1714