Supplement: A good number of members posted up comments to Session 1, last week. There was also a high volume of ‘traffic’ and activity on the site which would seem to suggest many more were also engaging, if not writing comments. I also received two photographs instead of actual comments! Both photographs are of an individual enjoying reading The Neutral. The first I received was of someone seated in a comfortable armchair. The light from the window overpowers somewhat, creating a slight blur, which makes the image seem to ‘float’. The second photograph is a little more tongue-in-cheek, sent to me from Australia by someone who joined the group only this week. It is a lovely image of the person smiling, reading the book, with Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. There are undoubted difficulties in initiating and then holding together a ‘discussion’ online about a book on such a subtle topic amongst a group of people with different backgrounds, time zones and motivations. I don’t want to judge the process, nor do I think it will necessarily work at all times. However, what I take from last week – the comments, the use of the website, and the photographs – is the fact that a group of us have chosen to read the book, together, over a set period of time. Given the current state of the art and humanities, I find that significant in itself.
Reflection: Last week, being the first week, I felt there was a need for us to settle in, which included some introductions of ourselves and perhaps some speculations upon the text. The image below is a ‘wordle’ visualisation of all our comments. You can click on the image to see a larger version of it. It is not particularly revealing, but (1) the frequency of words (shown accordingly by size) would seem to suggest we were all attuned to the text; and (2) there seems to be something nice about this jumble of words, capturing a playful, pleasurable sense of reading; which was both mentioned and displayed in our comments.
It strikes me that the dominant reading of The Neutral has been along literary lines. There were a couple of comments which were more direct in their philosophical concerns, but generally there was much more about words, texts and affects. I’m not necessarily surprised, and I think there is scope to consider the book in both a literary and philosophical sense – and also to challenge the text more critically. Nonetheless, it was nice to consider the spilling out of an ever more expansive ‘intertext’, since we all have our own set of influences, references and places we’re interested to get to.
Session of February 25, 2011 (Pages 20-31: Weariness (Continued) / Silence / Tact)
This week’s reading continues with ‘Weariness’, followed by entries on ‘Silence’, and ‘Tact’. As we settle in, perhaps we can find we pay closer attention to the text and generate more dialogue between us. It might be useful, for example, to build threads of discussion based on the three entries of his week’s reading, i.e. weariness, silence and tact. However, given the range of time zones I appreciate this not always easy. Also, it is quite reasonable to want to open up on completely different lines of enquiry. That is the nature of asynchronous exchange. One late comment to Session 1 suggested there were too many words! That is certainly true having arrived to the conversation at a later stage. However, I think I am probably mostly to blame for overly long entries. Perhaps I’ll play a slightly ‘quieter’ role this week. I don’t want to impose ideas, though we might also wish to decide amongst us – for the weeks to come – on specific lines of enquiry to help focus our reading. If you have any suggestions about a particular framing for a session then please do not hesitate to say. If we imagine all of us in a room at the same time week on week, we might begin to imagine how the room would be directed…
[…and just because one of our topics this week is ‘silence’ don’t take that as a directive!]