quote:Here's the thing -- I don't think authorial intention should be dismissed at all, but any work that is of sufficient literary value (and I would argue that many works of speculative fiction are no matter what literary professors may say) is complex enough to support different readings. Naturally, those will need to be within a certain range in order to be of value.
But I would also add that reading/criticism isn't just about "what the work means" -- no work is self-sufficient, once published (or read, actually) it becomes part of a complex matrix of expectations, conventions and meanings. Or in other words, it becomes part of culture.
I agree with what Zal has written here. As someone who is planning on an English degree (though a concentration in writing rather than literature), I have struggled with this idea as well. I agree that the writer's intention cannot be completely dismissed but I also think there is great value in analyzing a work of literature that goes beyond "What did the author mean by this symbol?"
Literature's magic, to me, is its ability to give insight into the human condition. I love Othello not because the language is pretty or because there's deep symbolic meaning that Shakespeare intended but because of the tragedy of the depths that jealosy brought Othello to, and the fascinating machinations of Iago and the strength of character of the women - both Desdemona and Emilia.
And if I write a paper on say, Iago's relationship with his wife Emilia, then even if what I get out of the reading of that relationship isn't exactly what Shakespeare might have intended, it still has value. To take Tom's example of the turtle - it might not have been Steinbeck's intention to have the mushroom cloud represent WWII, but it did remind Tom of WWII, and so the work is now beyond what the author meant. I still think that's worthwhile.
I hope this post made sense, I'm currently P.U.I. (posting under the influence) of (legal and prescribed) drugs.
Posts: 14428 | Registered: Aug 2001
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I only have time for a quick post to say that I like what JTK and Pelegius write on the bottom of the previous page in terms of literature and genre, but would note that marketing categories influence the reception of a work "as literature" in ways that aren't totally transparent.
And I'd also note that there what gets figured into discussions of literary value is variable, but, often much too narrow in many cases these days.
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Has anyone actually read "March"? I just read the front cover and I'm pretty turned off by the "a marriage tested by extreme idealism and by the temptations of a powerful, forbidden attraction." Which makes me incredibly angry because it's so not Mr. March. And the Amazon exerpt has just made things worse. So I'll give it one more chance by asking here, is this just one of those, "We'll take one of the few decent characters in literature and turn him into a horrible lying adulterer" or is it actually a decent story?
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quote: If an author writes something which can be interpreted in so many varying ways, then is it not his intent to be ambiguous? Failing that, is it not valid when another person interprets the work in a reasonable way, which disagrees with the author?
I'm afraid there can be no analysis of any living author, ever, if that author has the right to say that the analysis is categorically wrong. In that scenario, I could write something quite difficult to interpret, and then just insist to the world that I meant "this" and not "that," and the work wouldn't have to stand on its own. A good work has a million interpretations, and though 99% of those are obviously wrong, that still leaves many which contain valid points.
There is a space in between the author knowing everything about his own work, and the author having no control over it. It's both.
If the work isn't any good however, then both the interpretation and the intent are immaterial, since the author has not effectively related anything at all.
This was well put and pretty much sums up my own thoughts on the matter.
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