Doppelgedanken - Poem by gershon hepner
Leah Hager’s new term she calls Doppelgedanken
are thoughts that you read which were silently shrunken
until they expanded when you read the writing
of someone whose words seemed to you so inviting
you entered the mind of the author becoming
united with someone whose mind you were plumbing
and sharing, becoming with him or with her
creatively doubled in joint cri de coeur.
Inspired by Leah Cohen Hager Cohen’s review of Alice Monro’s “Too Much Happiness” (“Object Lessons, ” NYT Book Review, November 29,2009) :
The Germans must have a term for it. Doppelgedanken, perhaps: the sensation, when reading, that your own mind is giving birth to the words as they appear on the page. Such is the ego that in these rare instances you wonder, “How could the author have known what I was thinking? ” Of course, what has happened isn’t this at all, though it’s no less astonishing. Rather, you’ve been drawn so deftly into another world that you’re breathing with someone else’s rhythms, seeing someone else’s visions as your own.
My own Doppelgedanken occurred when I read this:
Munro’s own contrarian streak is displayed in the structure of her narratives. Many writers begin a story in medias res, but a Munro story is liable to end in the middle of things — that is, well before (or well beyond) the moment when a reader expects to find resolution. The very shape of things, along with our sense of what is important and why, seems to shift as we proceed. The real story keeps turning out to be larger than, and at canted angles to, what we thought it would be. The effect is initially destabilizing, then unexpectedly affirming. In the introduction to her 1996 volume of “Selected Stories, ” Munro reveals an endearing idiosyncrasy: “I don’t always, or even usually, read stories from beginning to end. I start anywhere and proceed in either direction.” She goes on to explain that she doesn’t read in order to find out what happens so much as to experience the world of the story, to inhabit it for a while, “wandering back and forth” in it, discovering the ways it alters her perspective. This Alice-in-Wonderland propensity, this inclination to regard fiction as a dynamic creation and the reader as a mutable participant, may provide a key to reading Munro. More than that, it suggests something provocative about the uses of fiction, about its moral purpose as well as its potential to have an impact on our lives.
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