aspiring toward a perfect attentiveness

If all great art is symbolic of a kind of moral plenitude, of conflicting attitudes and impulses explored and worked through toward some ideal clarity, the act of reading is itself a model of ideal human relations, aspiring toward a perfect attentiveness in which emotional possession and intellectual comprehension–what experience conditions us to see and what the text insists we see–inform and alter one another.  Reading well, in other words, is symbolic loving.

A friend quoted the poet Alan Shapiro as writing this. From his essay “The Dead, Alive, and Busy” (1984) published within In Praise of the Impure: Poetry and the Ethical Imagination: Essays, 1980-1991.

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