'Othello' Re-read

Derick R.C. Marsh


Rereading is all the rage. Since Peter Widdowson edited a collection of essays in 1982, entitled Re-Reading English, the verb 'to reread' seems in some critical circles to have replaced completely the more ordinary 'to read' and, moreover, to have been appropriated for the exclusive use of those critics who, applying contemporary critical theory to the standard works of English literature, want to offer what they feel are radical reappraisals, reinterpretations, revaluations. There is nothing new in that, as the familiar ring of such words indicates. There are several series; the rereading of Chaucer or Shakespeare or Donne or Pope, or whatever revered figure happens to come into the sights of the rereader, goes on apace. The stated aim is usually to demystify or deconstruct or dismantle or problematize the work, or the canon, or the author. They are an active lot, the contemporary critics, unlike the passive liberal humanists, whom they so bitterly oppose, and a very verbal lot as well, claiming to liberate reading from the constrictions imposed on it for centuries by the literary establishment. Yet rereading has been going on for as long as words have been written down, and every work of literature that has any claim to merit has been reread millions of times, by millions of readers. Each of those readings has been what is now called a rereading, the creation of a new version of the text, in the individual consciousness, by an interaction between the words on the page and the perceiving mind of the reader, a process close to that which the notorious liberal humanist William Wordsworth described in 'Tintern Abbey' as half creation and half perception.

Full Text: