One segment particularly stuck out for me:
Authors whose daily behavior is scandalous can compose stories of wondrous moral richness, sometimes actually realizing, as Samuel Johnson liked to insist, their own genuine ethical aspirations better than they ever do in “real life.” As he says, “a man writes much better than he lives.”This is a nicely optimistic view that allows for a great deal of leeway in terms of readerly acceptance of the person behind the book; this idea also requires very little actual proof to alleviate partially, if not entirely, one's qualms about how to reconcile an utterly unlikeable person like Yukio Mishima (for example) with the transcendent works they create.
It certainly strikes a chord with me - but with the post-academic me. I realized when I got to this point in Rohan's essay that the academic me wouldn't have required any such emotional salve, that my ability to focus almost (but not quite, and that's key) exclusively on text has been ebbing away since I left the academy behind. I still resist the use of biographical criticism when thinking about literature for I somehow still believe that literary creations, the best ones anyway, are still much larger than the brains that produced them.
Somewhere along the line I've become less resistant to letting what I know about an author influence my emotional response to their works - and this has turned out to be a dangerous combination, for imagining the writer to be somehow better than the average bear has invited a great deal of disappointment, with Mishima through John Nathan's biography and through meeting Sherman Alexie and seeing him be a jerk to me and the other fans at his reading.
Of course, why I read and how has been changing because how I write about what I read and to/for whom has changed. Trying to instill good reading habits in my students, for example, or showing that while I can engage with the historical context of the authors about whom I write, but not really their personal historical context, aren't balancing acts I need concern myself with anymore.
Reducing - or elevating - text to the product of pure intellect or something more transcendent like "genius" but still essentially as somehow beyond basic human emotion was mirrored in my and my peers' attempts to approach literature as the embodiment of pure intellect. I'm not certain if this is something true across periods in the study of English literature but in the study of Renaissance literature it was both expected and relatively easy, the latter because often, very little is known about the authors in question anyway.
I honestly don't know anymore if this was a good approach to literary studies, but it was at heart the only one garnering any real approbation. In any case, for me it was from the start an attempt that would involve a mammoth struggle. Personally, I know that the work I did on texts which I either disliked or felt neutral about is generally considered better than the work I did on texts I loved - and more telling, perhaps, the work on those less beloved texts was much easier to execute. Writing about 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (one of my favourite Renaissance plays) was excruciating, in part because I was emotionally invested in doing it justice, and because reading it for the 20th time didn't in any way mitigate my emotional response to its pathos.
Looking back at the academy I left, all I see is confusion and disarray, which of course probably entirely reflects the fact that I never felt entirely comfortable there; unlike my brothers in PhD arms, I never lost the ability to put down my pen and dive in an entirely emotional way into a good book (you should have seen the mess I was at the end of The Amber Spyglass, which I read while writing my thesis proposal!).
Keeping my emotional and intellectual responses to literature separate never really seemed entirely right - or perhaps more to the point, possible - for me. Engaging deeply with literature is a passion for me; I read everything passionately and some things would make me feel like they were blowing the top of my head off and making my heart seize up in an almost mortal way - 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, King Lear, The Winter's Tale - and then I'd have to compartmentalize that and articulate something, a transition I found to be both difficult and painful.
Clearly, the blogosphere is a better place for me, for it admits of all approaches. And based on things happening over at Novel Ideas, I like to imagine that Victorian studies at least is more flexible than Renaissance studies are; maybe other period disciplines will someday follow suit.