What does it mean to ‘excavate’ a literary work?

I’m fascinated by the idea of ‘excavation.’ Gerwig talks about seeing her girlhood in the pages of “Little Women” and excavating that work for her film interpretation. Years ago (when I was 9 or so) I wanted to be an archaeologist of the sort who excavated the tombs of pharaohs. But when I studied archaeology and anthropology in college, I realized it wasn’t like that at all. It was taking a brush and carefully dusting the dirt of slivers of stone, bone, and pottery and then measuring things and then mounting these slivers aside numerous other slivers that look a lot like it. Which I’m sure can be very satisfying for those with sufficient context and the right frame of mind.

For myself, however, I’ve now turned to excavating literature, which for me means reading carefully, again and again, to find new meaning in old stories.

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Posted in What I'm Reading

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