Reading minor characters: an English literary society and its culture of investigation

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Abstract

This essay approaches the cultures of reading anthropologically, drawing on my ethnographic research with the Henry Williamson Society to excavate the ways readers enthusiastically commit to the minor characters of Williamson’s novels. It places Alex Woloch’s literary analysis of minor characterization in dialogue with the anthropological theory of “distributed agency” developed by Alfred Gell in order to examine the idea of the reader as someone who “gives” and may in turn “receive” attention. The essay asks whether it might be more helpful to conceive of readers’ activities as a form of reading without “culture”—whether plurality, if it must be invoked, might better be located in the dynamism of the reading person.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-80
JournalPMLA
Volume134
Issue number1
Early online date1 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

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