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What are Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle essentially saying in their 1995 Pleasure?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle claim that the pleasure in literature is too rarely discussed in theoretical analyses today. As evidence, they refer to frequent use of the word (not just related concepts) in literature of earlier eras. They refer especially to William Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads.

Literature is about the idea of a specific kind of readerly pleasure: the erotic. From Ross Chambers, they borrow the concept of "narrative seduction." This is fundamental, they argue, even when the subject matter is not sexual. It pertains to the author's drawing the reader into a relationship with a character. Their arguments also draw on nineteenth-century aestheticism, which places beauty at life's center.

A second important point that the authors make is that pleasure, often linked with bliss, is not a smooth, even process. Rather, for critics such as Barthes, pleasure is unsettling, unobtainable, and ecstatic. The reader draws pleasure from the paradox of its imminent removal. It is unfulfilled and always imminent.

"Pleasure" is a chapter in Bennett's and Royle's book, An Introduction to Literature, 5th ed. New York: Routledge, 2016.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Essentially, in Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle's 1995 essay Pleasure, they are saying that pleasure can exist in two very distinct ways when examined within literature. First, pleasure can be found by reading. The reader can find pleasure within a text for the way it transports them to another place, into another life. In the same way that literature can move a person (a pleasurable experience), literature can be about pleasure (the erotic nature found between the characters to which the text is focused upon).

For Bennett and Royle, literature moves people, it seduces them. This seduction, according to the authors, is the reason why some people read--in order to be seduced. The authors tend to personify words in regards to give words the power to seduce (in the same way people can seduce).

In the end, both Bennett and Royle seem to be suggesting one thing: that authors need to seduce their readers through word choice.

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