Re-reading as critical reading

Daniel Green, in a post, discusses how re-reading is synonymous with critical reading:

Reading includes re-reading, and it is in the act of re-reading that criticism really occurs. Indeed “re-reading” and “critical reading” might be considered synonymous terms, as it is almost impossible to resist in a subsequent encounter some degree of scrutiny of the way the text works, some examination of what exactly it was that captured one’s attention in the first reading and makes it difficult to put that text out of mind.

This might in general be true. But, I can think of at least one scenario in which re-reading is not critical reading. For example, some times, for some books, the best analogy for re-reading is watching an action movie for the n-th time (like this one, for example)–everytime, we are willing to completely lose ourselves to what is happening on the screen (page) that no other part of the brain lights up. For example, when I read Kanthapura, and re-read it several times within a period of two or three months, I was soaking-in in the narration so much, I had little time for anything else. The thoughts about Raja Rao-ian approach to Gandhi as compared to those by RKN (in Waiting for Mahatma) and Mulk Raj Anand (in Untouchable) came much later. Thus, at times when you finish a novel, and turn to the first page again to re-read, more often than not, it is not critical reading.

Another thing which makes re-reading critical reading is what we read in between our re-readings; even though I read the Collected essays of A K Ramanujan, a re-reading of the book after reading Margaret Atwood is an altogether different experience. This is not confined to reading alone; for example, listening to Siddheshwari Devi  or Begum Akhtar after reading Sheila Dhar, or listening Ariyakudi‘s Sri Subrahmanyaya after reading his gloss are also very different experiences.

Having said that, I am in full agreement with Green when he says,

Critics read for pleasure too, but most surely believe that a more “critical” re-reading only enhances the pleasure, producing a fuller, more expansive experience of the work.

The critical and deep reading is certainly much more fulfilling and pleasurable, though few are the books that give such a pleasure, and fewer still which, continue to give such pleasure on re-reading!

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