Toward an Ethics of Close Reading in the Age of Neo-Liberalism

Author(s): Santiago Colas


This article consists of a suggestion together with an argument to persuade you to consider the suggestion. I suggest that close reading would be a good thing for us (U.S.-based scholars of Latin American literature and culture) to do more of in the present. Stated so baldly, the suggestion no doubt begs a number of questions, which may already appear in your mind as objections: What do I mean by “close reading”? By “good”? By “the present”? None of these terms bears a self-evident meaning. Accordingly, my argument comprises an extended reflection upon and response to each of these questions such that you will feel persuaded to consider my suggestion as viable, or maybe just as worth some thought.

I have sought to elaborate what I mean by “close reading,” by “ethics,” and by an “ethics of close reading” through an instance of the practice I am advocating: an ethical close reading, in this case of the twentieth-century Uruguayan writer Felisberto Hernández. By contrast, you might understand my reflections on the present, with which the essay concludes, as a prelude to something like a heterogeneous, collaborative close reading of the present itself. With them, I mean only to sketch a necessarily partial perspective on how our discipline has in recent years engaged the literary and cultural production of Latin America and of how, from that perspective, an ethics of close reading may be a fruitful avenue for future work. In that sense, those final reflections might also be read as a contextual preface to the close reading that in fact precedes them. In that case, that close reading not only serves to build its own concept, but also as a first offering of the kind of work I am suggesting might benefit us.

Publication Information:

Periodical Title: Michigan State University Press. CR: The New Centennial Review

Year of Publication: 2007

Volume Number: 7

Page Numbers: pp.171-211

Issue Number: 3