Merve Emre on the Mind-Body Experience of Transcribing Mrs Dalloway
In Conversation with Paul Holdengräber on
The Quarantine Tapes
Hosted by Paul Holdengräber, The Quarantine Tapes chronicles shifting paradigms in the age of social distancing. Each day, Paul calls a guest for a brief discussion about how they are experiencing the global pandemic.
Paul Holdengräber is joined by Merve Emre on Episode 170 of The Quarantine Tapes. Merve spent time in quarantine working on her upcoming annotated version of Mrs. Dalloway. She tells Paul about her extraordinary experience of getting closer to that text by transcribing it in full as she annotated, and considers how reading an annotated edition is always an act of rereading.
Paul asks Merve about her writing on Critical Love Studies and the work of Sam See. Then, they discuss the applications of literary pedagogy outside of traditional literary spaces and the questions that those applications raise. Finally, Merve tells Paul about the new documentary, Persona, based on her book The Personality Brokers and what that project reveals about the growing role of personality assessments.
From the episode:
Merve Emre: I think you do have that very curious experience that Borges described in one of his stories, where you feel like you have somehow inhabited the mind and the sensibility, and even in some strange and oddly disembodied way, the body of the writer herself. I felt like after transcribing a certain number of pages, I could almost anticipate where Virginia Woolf was going to place a semicolon, or where she was going to use a particular word. And I think you’re absolutely right to describe it as this very odd correspondence between your hand—or in my case your fingers, because I was typing—and your mind. I’ve never experienced that kind of rewiring of the relationship between my mind and my body before. It was really extraordinary.
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Merve Emre is an associate professor of English at the University of Oxford and the author of several books, including The Personality Brokers.