From Floor to Ceiling Crowded Shelves: Writing About Reading

Watson, Susan. 2018. From Floor to Ceiling Crowded Shelves: Writing About Reading. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

All writers should begin by reading. In this thesis I have explored ways of writing about reading through the process of writing my own poems and short prose pieces and through my readings of the work of the Canadian poet and academic Anne Carson.

The poems and prose pieces conduct a conversation with the work of writers who have been significant figures in my own history as a reader. These writers include D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot and Sir Thomas Malory. Many of the pieces reflect on the experience of reading itself: the intellectual, analytical, and critical readings occurring alongside the more instinctive and personal responses.

My critical thesis focuses on the conversations that Anne Carson has entered into with other writers. The close reading and re-reading necessitated by scholarly translation has engaged Carson in creative collaborations with classical writers such as Sappho and Stesichoros. It has also resulted in formal experiments that cross traditional genre boundaries. Carson’s long narrative poem ‘The Glass Essay’ examines the work of close reading and demonstrates the process of reading both as recuperation and inspiration.

There is considerable risk involved in producing work of this kind. It may baffle or alienate the reader, or it may give the impression that the writer is merely showing off their erudition. But where creative writing about reading succeeds, it can engage the reader deeply. Through my own close reading of Carson’s poems and lyric essays I demonstrate the different strategies by which she illuminates the full complexity and subtlety and redemptive power of literature and the reading process.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Poetry, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Anne Carson, Intertextuality

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


30 November 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2019 15:28

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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