Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reading Between the Lines, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. - Preface

We begin with a criticism, if you like, of Gene Veith's book Reading Between the Lines. When I say criticism, I mean it in its literary sense, not in the pejorative. This is a book review.

Veith's intention, as written in the very first line, is "to help people be better readers." He contends that mere interpretation of literature is not the end-all of reading. Instead, he argues that appreciation and enjoyment must precede interpretation.

He wishes to show us the assumptions and values (that which is "between the lines") of what we read.

In a rather crucial statement, Veith says that in a world of images, Christians must continue to be people of the Word. For a parallel book on this subject, see Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman. One of the more interesting conclusions Postman draws is from the Second Commandment, which says not to worship graven images. Postman is interested in this commandment, because he says that there must be some significance in the medium of communication, if God is concerned enough about it to devote an entire commandment to it. So Veith is concerned about how reading affects the imagination, not just the intellect.

The study of literature, as Veith says, is going to take us into a host of other subjects, because literature, by its very nature, "involves its readers in a wide range of issues, provoking thought in many directions."

He footnotes some books that deal more comprehensively with the relationship between the theoretical issues in literature and the Christianity: Leland Ryken in particular, and Susan Gallagher and Peter Lundin.

Then he moves on to summarize the chapters in the rest of the book. The book is organized into four main parts: 1. Introduction (two chapters). 2. The Forms of Literature. 3. The Modes of Literature. 4. The Traditions of Literature. Each chapter is somewhat self-contained, making it a good reference book.

In the Introduction, we have Ch. 1, dealing with the distinction between the Word and the Image. Also, Ch. 2 is entitled, "Vicarious Experience and Vicarious Sin: The Importance of Criticism."

In Part 2: The Forms of Literature, there are three chapters, one each on nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

In Part 3: The Modes of Literature, there are also three chapters, one each on tragedy and comedy, realism, and fantasy.

In Part 4: The Traditions of Literature, there are four chapters, one each on the Middle Ages and Reformation, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Modernism and Postmodernism, and the Makers of Literature.

I definitely think that this book will be an important one in the fight against deconstructionism and other silly modern ideas.

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