Is it possible for an author to be wrong about their own work? On the surface, I don't think so, especially when it comes to a direct explanation of their text (or even summary). However, I think that an author can be incomplete when interpreting their work. For instance, perhaps they are aware of their intention, however, what if a subconscious purpose or intention exists within an author? I think someone like Freud would argue yes, but it is impossible to prove. I do think that readers can add or expand to an author's interpretation of their works. Because once an author puts a work "out there," it is open to interpretation and scrutiny. An author's intention makes up only part of literature, but without the reader's spin or view on it, does literature even exist?
At one point, Professor Chapman wrote on the board the following sentence: Determining an author's intention is (fill in the blank) important/necessary/useful part of literary interpretations. In my own mind, I like to think that there could have been an all of the above option. Authorial intention is necessary to consider in the way that it is important and useful to consider. However, we can never truly know what an author 's intention is, right? But in my opinion, there is a purpose behind all works and an informed reader can make a best guess as to what that purpose is. But is that all a reader can do? No, of course not. So maybe we can delete all three options. Would is make sense to say that "Determining an author's intention is a part of literary interpretation." Just that, only a piece of the puzzle or only one way to look at a work.
In class, we pinned Freud against Plato and discussed whether or not emotion should be incorporated into literature. On one hand, Freud argued that authors should indulge in emotion. Plato, on the other hand, argues that they should ignore emotion and be rational in literature in order to explain "truth." While I agree that one purpose of literature should be to generate some sort of truth about the world, I cannot imagine what literature that is void of emotion would even look like. Is this even possible? Instead, what about using logic and reason to channel out emotions to create something constructive that leads to truth? Analyzing our own emotions could possible help us to understand truths about the world. This should not be avoided in my opinion.
I realized, when looking over the blogs, that no one had really talked about Smith #2 as of yet, and that article, though long, was one of my favorites (though not at first). When I first started to read Smith I saw words like 'economics' and 'cost-benefit' and 'accounting' which brought me back to horrible memories of accounting I freshman year and made me cringe in horror that she would dare compare literature (my love) to accounting (hate). However, as I continued to read the article, I realized for one, that it was more about economics and sociology than accounting and that it actually made a lot of sense. Books do seem to change value over time and even if they are 'timeless' their meaning and importance changes to an extent. I immediately thought of Shakespeare. When I saw Titus Andronicus performed at the Globe, complete with Lavinia dripping cups of blood from her mouth as it stained down her white dress, I saw a type of Shakespeare that was completely different from that which I had learned in school. Titus was entertaining. It was loud and in your face and the crowd wildly cheered or gasped in horror together, we were so enraptured by this 'drama' that was more of a Shakespearean slasher. True, in Shakespeare's days, they might not have used as much fake blood, (though I'm not really sure of that) but watching that play in the Globe as it might have been performed in the 1500s showed me a different side to Shakespeare. His plays have really changed from what they once were, entertaining shows that even peasants could watch for a penny, to required curriculum in schools. Don't like Shakespeare? Read the spark notes, right? But Shakespeare wasn't originally meant to be read in a classroom so students could suffer through understanding the difficult language, it was meant to be seen and enjoyed. This isn't to say Shakespeare didn't possess that deeper meaning (though I wouldn't cite Titus as the best example for deep interpretation) but how we read Shakespeare, how he is important, and why he is valued has changed. I think that's why I liked Smith's 'contingency of value' idea so much. It ensured that literature was never static.
First, I challenge the assumption that being easy and enjoyable to read is somehow worse than complexity and difficulty. A complex work can be rewarding, and I would not say that complexity is bad any more than I would say simplicity is bad. But a good idea, stated elegantly, can be much more rewarding than a complex obfuscation that leaves the reader unsatisfied and in the dark.
Second, I vehemently disagree with the idea that writing a gripping and satisfying story is somehow "easier" than writing a complex and unsatisfying story. Literary people have gotten the idea that a complex work is more difficult to write than a simpler story, but I don't think that's true. Anyone who has stayed up all night to finish a Stephen King story, or read a Harry Potter book in one sitting because the story gripped them by the collar and wouldn't let them go shouldn't be ashamed to call those good books, and shouldn't laugh them off in discussion by saying "ah, it's just junk."
I found it a little unnerving in our class discussion that I was evidently the only one who wanted to bring genre fiction to prison. You're in prison, people. Do you really think you're going to read War and Peace more than once? And the sad thing is, it's an education in English that makes us act this way; we became English majors because we love to read, and then turn our backs on the books we once loved.
Due to our latest readings, and especially after our discussions on the cannon and the qualities of what makes a piece of literature good, I feel like interpretations of texts and literature have to be subjective. I know a few people have brought this up on the blog already, but never agreed fully to the idea of subjectivity. They only admitted texts can sometimes be interpreted subjectively. I feel like we’ve been skating around these ideas of subjectivity and objectivity fairly frequently, but never addressed them head on.
To be truly objective one has to be free of any bias or prejudice caused by personal feelings. Objectivism is based on facts rather than thoughts or opinions. In a world where so much emotion, thought, and personal ideas come from the author to create that text, how can a reader simply look at the facts of a text and create an interpretation? What even are the facts of a text? At this point the idea of anyone ever having a truly objective interpretation or opinion on a piece of literature seems truly impossible to me. How do you not let your personal bias, interpretive communities, and personal emotions not affect the way you are reading the text? Before I said that an objective opinion seems close to impossible, but now I really think it is. It is impossible to separate our mind from our personal beliefs and opinions to form a truly unbiased objective opinion.
Is there anyone who believes in objectivity? If so, I would be really interested in what you think.
Leavis overreaches. To say there are only four (maybe five if you include Lawrence) “great” English novelists worth reading about is to limit yourself in the extreme. I understand his early point that “It is necessary to insist, then, that there are important distinctions to be made, and that far from all the names in the literary histories really belong to the realm of significant creative achievement” (653). Bad literature has been written; we know it; we have read it but to limit ourselves (and subsequently our canon) to only a minor set of very few authors as Leavis does is an injustice to other authors who might have more merit in our eyes then do Austen or Eliot or James. Leavis was a little too driven by the general dissatisfaction of his era. Reacting to the void modern life had become in the 1920s, he wants to accuse future writers of having no inherent value to offer in their works. They are not “worth reading” in his eyes. And yet, what does he give us other than his opinion that these four authors are the ones that should be written? He seems to have picked the names of Austen, Conrad, James and Eliot out of an arbitrary hat since he does not offer us either generalized criteria but mere subjective opinion: “Disraeli[‘s]….interests as expressed in [his] books…are so mature” (Footnote 1 653). I confess myself very dissatisfied with his argument overall.Emily Franzen
I don't think we deal with reader responce in classes at all. This could be to avoid all of the problems that go along with reader responce, like the ever present problem of whether all interpretations are valid. Is it ok to not really ever tackle this in class rooms or are we losing something by not talking about our gut feelings about the text and how the text affects us now?
Objectivity. I feel that everything we’ve talked about in class has somehow come to the conclusion that this is impossible. It probably is, on a lot of levels, but isn’t it possible that there is some form of objectivity in an interpretation, albeit small or very broad? Or at least we can allow for varying degrees of subjectivity.
For example, let’s take Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a story about a rich and crotchety old man named Scrooge who has an assistant named Bob Cratchit. Scrooge seems to be a very black-hearted man who hates Christmas while Bob loves the holiday and is a very optimistic man even though he has almost no money and a sick child. That night, the ghost of Marley, Scrooge’s late partner visits the old man and warns him to change his ways. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts that night, those of Christmas Past, Present and Future. After these spirits visit Scrooge, he realizes that he must and will change his stingy ways and becomes very generous and everyone is happy. The end.
Was that an interpretation? If so, could it be construed as an objective one? If it’s not an interpretation, why isn’t it? These are the things I've been wondering each time we discuss subjectivity and objectivity... what do you think?