In departments of education, professors talk about the "fluency" that those who are learning to read need to achieve to become good readers. Unless one can digest the letters on the page fast enough, one cannot comprehend what one is reading. But once one learns how to read, there is a speed beyond which one stops reading in a truly effective way. I am convinced that most speed-reading is impaired reading, just like the sort you do when you have a fever or are tired or engaged in other tasks at the same time you are supposed to be reading.Time for Reading, Lindsay Waters (via my favorite morning stop, Arts & Letters Daily; and The Chronicle of Higher Education.)
Behind the fads of the last 20 years, the shift in methods of teaching reading — at all levels — has rejected paying attention to everything literary in a piece of writing, from phonics to poetics, from sentence structures to all larger formal structures.
The problem with reducing books to themes and morals is that it slights the experience of reading. The problem with outsourcing reading by reducing it to graphs and numbers is that it involves no experience at all. In my theory of reading, we have an emotional experience before we come to understand what happened, before we can draw any abstractions out of it. And then our consciousness plays the role of observer, recreating the experience, seeking to understand it, in different ways in different times.
The role of literature is to mess with time, to establish its own time, its own rhythm. A new agenda for literary studies should open up the time of reading, just as it opens up how the writer establishes his or her rhythm. Instead of rushing by works so fast that we don't even muss up our hair, we should tarry, attend to the sensuousness of reading, allow ourselves to enter the experience of words.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
In classes, students are frequently admonished to "budget enough time" for reading and studying. Most of us don't. But we should. A quick read isn't necessarily a comprehensive one. And Lindsay Waters, executive editor for the humanities at Harvard UP, thinks so too.