In The Writer in the Well: On Misreading and Rewriting Literature, Gary Weissman takes readers inside Ira Sher’s short story “The Man in the Well,” about a group of children who discover a man trapped in an old well and decide not to help him. While absorbing readers in the pleasurable activity of interpreting this haunting tale, Weissman draws on dozens of his students’ responses to the short story, as well as his dialogue with its author, to show that the deepest engagement with literature occurs when we approach literary analysis as a collaborative enterprise conducted largely through writing.
Rethinking the methods and goals of literary analysis, Weissman’s study redefines the nature of authorial intention and reconceives literary interpretation as a writing-based practice. By integrating writing pedagogy with older and newer schools of thought—from psychoanalytic, reader-response, and poststructuralist theories to rhetorical narrative theory and cognitive literary studies—and bridging the fields of literary studies, composition and rhetoric, and creative writing, The Writer in the Well argues that the richest understanding of a literary work lies in probing how it has been misinterpreted and reconceived and offers a new “writer-response theory.”
This highly accessible and thought-provoking book, which includes the full text of Sher’s “The Man in the Well,” is designed to engage scholars, teachers, students, and avid readers of literature.