Another exchange from the Narrative-L discussion list. Elizabeth Patnoe raises this issue:
"In thinking about the issues that emerged today, I wonder: What does it mean to be a dishonest or honest reader or listener or viewer?"
From Matthew Clark's answer:
I like this question --
Here's a thought -- I've tried to think of times that I have been a dishonest reader, and here are two:
1. Some writers rub me the wrong way, and I have difficulty putting my feelings aside to see what is valuable in what they have to say. Derrida, for example.
2. If a group that I identify with dislikes a particular writer, then I have difficulty forming an independent judgement. Leo Strauss, for example.
Do these count as instances of dishonesty? I'm not being confessional here -- I don't claim to be much worse than the average (but not much better, either) -- just trying to use introspection as a way into the question. (...)
And my own post:
On the subject of "dishonesty" and "dishonest readers":
I find Matthew's suggestions interesting, although they address the issue from one specific viewpoint: self-analysis, that is, trying to discover, through an examination of conscience, which are our flaws in living up to our own ideals of honesty. Which is all right, but I find is not the most evident focus on the issue. I would begin with "dishonesty" as an interactional value judgment, that is, it is applicable to self-interaction as Matthew does, but it is above all concerned with ethical and political positions vis à vis other people. That is, "dishonest", for whom? A dishonest reader is a dishonest reader mainly for another reader. Who in turn may be dishonest for the first, or for a third observer. One person (maybe the same person, OK) has to behave and another has to judge. Then each of them will be acting as representatives of general values or wider communities. And then each of them may be divided within, perhaps thence the possibility of being accused of dishonesty. This topic is fascinating from a narratological viewpoint of course: think of the connections with the issue of unreliable narrators, unreliable narratees, and unreliable authors. And unreliable readers, who needn't be dishonest by the way.
Jose Angel García Landa
Universidad de Zaragoza
I am aware of course, that some people believe (actually it's almost a consensus among narratologists) that narrative theory should be blind to such issues as "unreliable authors" or "dishonest readers". But to my mind a fully interactional narrative theory cannot be severed from an ethics of reading, and an ethics of writing as well. And an ethics of theorizing.
And—one last issue. The term "reader" may be confusing above, in such phrases as "a dishonest reader is a dishonest reader mainly for another reader". We have to posit here a communicated or textualized reading (whether conversational, broadcast, in private writing or in published criticism). Maybe the right term for a reader who articulates his or her reading in an expressive form is, in most cases, critic. And therefore we should be discussing dishonest criticism. (But who wants to acknowledge one is a critic, whether honest or dishonest...).