The Ayers Rock Experience : Reading to Recuperate the Lost in David Malouf’s ‘Mrs Porter and the Rock’

In How to Read a Poem (2007) Terry Eagleton argues that global modernity has sabotaged the experience of close and cognisant reading: 'What threatens to scupper verbal sensitivity is the depthless, commodified, instantly legible world of advanced capitalism, with its unscrupulous way with signs ... and glossy packaging of"experience"' (17). Modernity's obsession with consumption - involving the substitution of 'signs ofthe real for the real itself' (Baudrillard 4)- has, Eagleton argues, resulted in the loss of many things: 'myth, magic, kinship, tradition, solidarity' (18). David Malouf, like Eagleton, deplores this loss. His fiction takes a modernist stance against the distractions ofconsumerism, rejecting the distinction between sign and world. Accordingly, his writing works towards climactic moments lyrically enacting an ecological phenomenology Merleau-Ponty refers to as 'the world ... directly experienced' (viii). To this end, Malouf, like Eagleton, advocates sensitive 'reading' as an ethical imperative within the modern climate; his characters engage with their surroundings in a manner analogous to that which Malouf suggests as the ideal reading process: the imaginary immersion in and creative response to minute textual details.

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Published 1 May 2011 in Volume 26 No. 1. Subjects: Aboriginal secret & sacred sites, Consumerism, Romanticism, Transcendence, David Malouf.

Cite as: Grogan, Bridget. ‘The Ayers Rock Experience : Reading to Recuperate the Lost in David Malouf’s ‘Mrs Porter and the Rock’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, 2011.