Position Paper 1 on “difficulty, reading and literature”

Position Paper #1                                                                                                                             Mackenzie Gans

In this position paper we will discuss the relationship between difficulty, reading and literature. We will explore how reading has changed, the effect on the reader and whether the changes have made reading literature difficult.

Firstly, there have been many changes in literature over the years, as Mr. Smith writes “the rules are constantly changing” (57). Which rules, might you ask? In short, all rules and conventions are in flux. The book, once the domain of the leather-bound variety with stiff spines, has given way to other types such as translucent pages, image-only books and other methods. Whether the writer decides to have large print, small print, or print at all is up for modification by the author. Also the colour of the characters, be it black, blue or red, and the font too. No standard is ‘safe’ from change today. Steve McCaffery mentions on page 17 that “there exists no standard definition of narrative”. He goes on to say that even writing styles are up for debate and tinkering: “There is so much confusion particularly between narrative and plot, the two terms being used almost interchangeably.” (17).

Now we will discuss the effect on the reader and whether it makes it increases difficulty. When changes occur, it will take time for the reader to adjust, however when there are a constant barrage of changes, the reader may sufficiently grasp the alterations and become disoriented. Technology today can be a benefit because “modernist poets now could use new print technologies to indicate exactly what values of spacing and word placement they intended” (74). Yet if the writer goes ‘too far’ it will negatively impact the reader and make it more difficult to comprehend and enjoy the material. Michael Davidson writes on an example of that on page 78 “…Drucker addresses the conventions of narrative form…by creating a text that thwarts forward movement and formal cohesion.”

In conclusion, the potential for new avenues of expression with literature are great. Yet the writer must be mindful of the difficulty of understanding his or her piece, because while the medium is important and can play a large role in the message of the literature, the ‘readability’ is an important aspect. It does not matter whether it uses paintings, pages or Chinese-fans; the writer must ask “Does the arrived solution present a hindrance to ‘understanding’?” (24).


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