For Roger Webster, ‘the concept of closure refers to the ways in which a text persuades a reader to understand and accept a particular “truth” or form of knowledge, to accept a certain view of the world as valid or natural’ (Webster 1990, p.52). To close a story means to tie up all the loose ends, both ideologically and aesthetically. This principle dates as far back as Aristotle, who describes plot as a self-contained series of events, with a beginning, middle and end. However, literary texts don’t always behave themselves, refusing to conform to a writing that tends towards the service of closure. This leads critics such as Peter Brooks to note: ‘The function of the end, whether considered syntactically (as in Todorov and Barthes) or ethically (as in Aristotle) or as formal or cosmological closure (as by Barbara H. Smith or Frank Kermode), continues to fascinate and to baffle’ (Brooks 1984, p.92). Fascinated and baffled, we are interested in texts that are bound up with an inexperience of the interminable, that refuse their own ending, and that refuse to allow us ever to stop reading: ‘What a strange thought: that writing will allow us to be done with reading, even that writing will be the record of our having answered the questions and put reading to bed’ (Benson and Connors 2014, p.12).
Stephen Benson and Clare Connors (eds), Creative Criticism: An Anthology and Guide (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014)
Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984)
Roger Webster, Studying Literary Theory (London: Edward Arnold, 1990)