Literary Criticism

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Literature, Addiction, Secrecy

In the series
Critical Inventions

David Punter is Professor of English and Research Director of the Faculty of Arts, University of Bristol. His major publications include The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions (1980; two-volume new edition 1996); Romanticism and Ideology (with David Aers and Jonathan Cook, 1981); Blake, Hegel and Dialectic (1982); The Hidden Script: Writing and the Unconscious (1985); Introduction to Contemporary Cultural Studies (ed., 1986); William Blake: Selected Poetry and Prose (ed., 1988); and The Romantic Unconscious (1989).

Rapture’: The act of seizing or carrying off as prey or plunder; the act of carrying or being carried; and the expression of ecstasy or euphoria in words.

The concept of rapture in literature navigates along a specific trajectory, from rapine status through to ‘being carried (away)’. This book identifies the apparent impossibility of recounting such ‘rapturous states’, and of fixing them in words or in time within cultural expectations, while questioning what we can do with those who are ‘enrapt’, and what we do inside ourselves with reading moments of rapture.

Rapture: Literature, Secrecy, Addiction engages with the ‘states of heightened awareness’, and seeks to connect with the notion of addiction as an alternative to the moral law. Punter deals with notions of writing as itself a kind of ‘seizure’, writing as a ‘fit’, in the works of Blake, Hölderlin, Novalis, Nietzsche, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Genet, and Ballard. ‘Writing it down’ – the process of returning from states of exaltation to find oneself writing in often bleak locations, underlines the relationship between rapture and literature. The author concludes that the very possibility of communication and interpretation is radically open to doubt. The addict–writer becomes representative of the dialectic of writing as an act of communication; an act which is tragically doomed from the outset.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-102-3
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $67.50
Release Date: March 2009
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-103-0
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $27.50
Release Date: March 2009
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Series Editor’s Preface
The Critical Inventions Series

1: Enraptured
After Poetry?
Empty, Absent Organs
Echo, the Stilled Heart
Tape, Spool, Toxic Remembrance
Brow of the Sea
Fictions of Sovereignty

2: Romanticism and the Open Secret
Beckoned by Ignorance
Secrets of the Chamber
Of Seizure and Festivity
At Home with Dr Autenrieth
Judgement Day

3: The Scene of Addiction
Free Toxins
Waste and Perish
Perversion, the Black Hole, Whispers
Pressed Rat and Warthog
Booty Call

4: Imagining Animals
Dreaming the Alphabet
Is there an Emperor in the Audience?
Beaver, Phoenix, Amphisboena
Intestinal Lesions
What is Schizophrenia Hiding?
Inspectors of Marks
Of Eels and Ethics

5: Hearing the Case
Hearing Disorder
The Motion is Carried
Here Comes the Score
Cutting Off
You Can’t Find the Help these Days
Professions of Love
Don’t Look Now

6: The Well of Life
Deep Thought
Heraclitus’ Adventures in Tibet
Of Running, Struggling and Giving In
The Hanged Man
On the Wire

7: A Body of Alabaster
Tainted Love
Masts of Crimson
Of Wreckage and Cotton Reels
Sugar Cube

8: Death, Story and the Preservation of the Soul
Of Singularity, Protection and the Machine
Demon in the Box
Worrying about the Fuzz
Fortified Wine
Waking the Dead
Bodily Fluids

9: Some Tales of Erythron
On the Nod
Pure, Undiluted, Uncut
Bad Manners
It Will Kill You, You Know
Non-Addicts Anonymous

10: Constructing a White Space
Of Liquid Grandiosity
Great Crack
The Ghost is Behind You
Losing It
Caught; Not Out
Tooled Up
We Move in Delusion as the Night . . .

11: Towards a Homeopathic Erotics
Methadone; the Future Perfect
Poisoned Wombs and Dripping Wax
Scar Tissue
Pure White; the Needle
Why do Ghosts Limp?

12: Rapt 210
How Many Junkies does it take to . . . ?
Gulf States
Trampolines of Desire
The Spoon and the Powder
Gold, Marble, Flesh
Onwards: Down the Line


‘The question remains,’ says David Punter, ‘how can we address, or be addressed by, rapture?’ To put this another way: how can we read the text that is rapture if reading itself is, as Punter will show, a form of rapture, a form of addiction, even a form of dissolution, so-called because we who read (we the dissolutes, as it were) do, in the end, dissolve into the text that we read. In fact, we dissolve so thoroughly that it becomes impossible to know, says Punter, whether we are reading or ‘being read’; and indeed, if it is also the case that even as we read our minds are forever running elsewhere, forever distracted by the whirlpool of echoes that is literature then, in the end (if there is an end) we must all become those ‘most astute readers, the readers who are lost in the rapture of having no idea what it is that they are reading.’
From the Preface by Series Editor John Schad

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