Loose Canons: Readers, Authors and Consumption in Helen Simpson's 'The Festival of the Immortals'

Ailsa Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Helen Simpson’s “The Festival of the Immortals” satirizes the contemporary phenomenon of the author event, peopling a literary festival with dead authors from the English literary canon. However, Simpson tempers the satire with an affectionate portrait of two elderly festival-goers for whom the cult of the author represents an emotional investment in the act of reading. The article draws on Bakhtinian theory in order to examine Simpson’s ambivalence towards public forms of literary consumption, which may be compared with other examples of female consumerism in her previous stories. In this story and elsewhere, Simpson address the silencing of female voices and the marginalizing of women’s experience. Using Derek Attridge’s concept of an “idioculture” we may understand the interconnected activities of reading and writing as a means of accessing “otherness”, and defend the legitimacy of reading texts through an imagined figure of the author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-156
JournalJournal of the Short Story in English
Volume60
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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