¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 1 It is perhaps not accidental, then, that Maurice Blanchot describes the basis for ethical community, the obligation that we owe one another, as “an infinite attention to the other” (qtd in Readings 161). Nor is it accidental that this formulation becomes the seed for Bill Readings’s reconception of teaching and learning “as sites of obligation, as loci of ethical practices“ (154), in which our primary obligation is to listen: “The other speaks, and we owe the other respect. To be hailed as an addressee is to be commanded to listen, and the ethical nature of this relation cannot be justified. We have to listen, without knowing why, before we know what it is that we are to listen to” (162). Both our membership in a voluntary community and our participation in the processes of education, as either teachers or students, require us not to focus on our own stories, but instead to listen to the stories that others tell us.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Returning to the processes of social reading: Striphas suggests that the success of Oprah’s Book Club lay not simply in its ability to create a “talking life” for books, but instead in the program’s “remarkable willingness to listen” (138), to hear what its participants have to say about their reading processes. Much like Wallace’s anti-rebel, focused on “old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life” (E Unibus 193), the “ethic of active listening” espoused by Oprah’s Book Club “underscores the degree to which people’s everyday lives and their actual concerns form a creative basis for the book club’s ways of operating” (Striphas 139). Whatever its commercial determination, the book club thus becomes, in its concern not simply with getting people to read, but with helping them to discover through discussion the potential that reading holds for their whole lives, a site that reveals the profound interconnections among narrative, education, and ethical community.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 As Kuisma Korhonen points out, literature has always created communities, some of which have been voluntary and ethical, and others of which have fostered exclusions and violence: “We need communities, textual and non-textual, in order to love and stay alive. But the need for protection also harbours the fear of the other within it” (Korhonen). Communities that are built around literary texts, however, “create a challenge for all homogenized communities” (Korhonen), as their texts escape their initial contexts and are read by groups that cannot be homogenized, whose differences remain visible and important:
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The unstable character of institutionalized textual communities can be seen as an indicator revealing the existence of an invisible textual community, perhaps the most radical community of all: those who do not know each other, who are not reading for any clearly determined purpose, who open themselves to the otherness of literary texts beyond all socially shared conventions of reading an interpretation. (Korhonen)
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 2 Korhonen means us to understand the “community of solitary readers” to be that most radical invisible textual community, but the experience of Infinite Summer suggests that connecting those solitary readers through the internet’s social networks has the potential to produce bonds among them that amplify their openness, not just to the otherness of the text but also the otherness of one another.