Seduction and Literature

by Adriane Howell

Sarah Fay’s Paris Review article “Delivering Gatsby,” frames literature as a personalised symbolic device. Wherein, through the act of literature recommendation and interpretation, a reader’s own sentiments and experiences can be communicated to a chosen other:

“My plan was to focus on chapter one… I’d talk about how each anecdote—each seemingly random incident—sets up what a snake Tom is… He would get the message.”

Additionally, Dawn Kaczmar’s blog post “Literature as a Method of Seduction,” treats literature as a lover’s discourse:

“I often send them book recommendations or passages that have resonated with me as if to say, look here: my soul dwells within this text. This is where you can find meI used it as an act of revealing, but also as an act of provoking.

There exists an organic relationship between literature and sex. Barthes (1975) believes that reading is motivated by desire – desire for knowledge, desire for withdrawal, desire for creativity via text interpretation. The text is thus a fetishised object.

I confess. I too have participated in literary seduction. Hiding my secret essence in an author’s prose. Each page turned, is another garment removed…

However, as the act of reading is a creative interpretation, we are never totally aligned in our understanding of a text – or in that case, an individual.

It is not purely for carnality that I engage in literary recommendations, platonic recommendations do occur. Recommendation is an attempt at human connection.

There is a woman I know, a Cinephile. We are in the early stages of developing a friendship. We play a book-club dance. It is interesting to note that as of yet, the chosen writers have all been female: PlathColetteSagan etc. Perhaps by unconsciously framing our friendship, within a female realm, we are attempting to nurture something that is newborn. However neither of us are maternal.

Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of Desire. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1975.