Some more questions from Stephen Burt:
18. How often are readers from “marked,” or subordinated, or “minority” subject positions, asked to read as if they were not coming from those positions, to look at a literary work as if we were cisgendered, or male, or “middle American,” or well-off, or white?
19. How often are readers from “unmarked” or majority or until-recently-the-majority subject positions asked to read as if they were not coming from those positions, to look at a literary work as if we were Filipino, or Icelandic, or black?
20. Are the “asks” (or demands) in questions 18 and 19 demands of the same kind?
21. How often are readers unfamiliar with carpentry, or particle physics, or runway fashion, or haute cuisine, or Latin, asked to read as if we already recognized references to those fields?
22. Are the “asks” (or demands) in question 21 demands of the same kind as those in questions 18 and 19?
A charming retired gentleman participated in a novel workshop I taught in the DC area, and during a routine discussion of verisimilitude we debated the importance of authentic detail on the reader’s experience. He’d spent most of his life at sea—career Navy—and assured his fellow workshop members that, love him or hate him, the author of The Hunt for Red October hadn’t spent much time on submarines. This student actually rather enjoyed Tom Clancy’s cold war tomes, although he admitted that in this particular case part of his pleasure arose from sneering at the implausible or inaccurate detail. I declined his offer to peruse his annotated copy of the novel.