Philip Pullman is Inside, Outide, Elsewhere at Place and Space

Last weekend was spent at the Place and Space conference at Keble College.

Philip Pullman gave the key note speech, Inside, Outside, Elsewhere, on Friday afternoon where he talked about the notion of the Borderland and reading. He defined the area as one defined by reader and book, a shared area partially created the book’s imagination and the reader’s imagination.

He questioned the idea of the primary world being somehow lesser than the secondary world at the end of Amber Spyglass with Heaven’s  idea that the real world is lesser in its Utopia. There is no elsewhere in the republic of Heaven. The author and the reader need to interact for the imagination to be ignited. Using images from Gwen John, where the woman in the picture reading standing up in contemplation, and Caspar David Friedrich’s image of a man standing overlooking the mountains which illustrated his idea of reading not always being easy. A reader gets as much out of a book as they put in and that the experience should be democratic in terms of author and reader balance.

Using the illustrations of, amongst others,  Tove Janssen, BB, Arthur Ransome and the images in Leon Garfield’s novels, Pullman argued that there are two kinds of author and reader. The first kind is where action and character are central and in the second, action and landscape are central. He did make me take a second look at the Rupert images by Bestall in terms of the ways of reading the relationship between image and text in terms of there being five ways of reading the story.  Firstly, the images on their own; secondly the rhyming couplets; thirdly the text; fourthly, the images around the header and lastly, the heading itself. Children’s literature, along with graphica, mixes text and art in such a central way and its going to be something for me to explore.

In both main sections, the text is central to the reader and author intention is only part of the literary experience and that reader response is equally important.

Lastly, he showed shots of some text mining software that Tim Regan at Microsoft has been developing that really interesting in terms of the being able to give the reader basic information quickly so that they can ask more complex questions of a text or series of texts.

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