Leypoldt, Günter (2020):
"Spatial Reading: Evaluative Frameworks and the Making of Literary Authority." American Journal of Cultural Sociology 9.2: 150-176.
Journal Article

Abstract This essay uses Charles Taylor’s theory of evaluative frameworks to solve a problem that has challenged literary theory and historiography for some time: how do we square the tension between the private uses and the public authority of reading? Taylor’s notion of strong value brings out literature’s often-overlooked similarities with religious-moral or civil-sacred domains, while his concept of weak value helps us to understand more mundane moods of purpose-rational reading. Combining the concept of evaluative frameworks with a socio-institutional account of literary authority, this essay sketches an alternative history of reading, with a focus on the shifting authority of “spatial reading” (defined as attention to formal and intertextual depth). Looking at developments from the 1780s to the present, I will show how the distinction between spatial and flat reading emerges in the eighteenth century, is transformed by the modernist institutionalization of high- and middlebrow notions of spatial form, and continues to provoke tensions between the civil sphere and the literary-artistic field (as the recent scandal around Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize attests).