Posted by Danielle W. on July 28, 1998 at 11:05:43:
In response to What's my line?..., written by Nathalie R. on July 28, 1998 at 03:19:02
] The Ayn Rand approach seems very feasible to me since it follows Aristotelian(?) demands for objectivity and for unity within the work by a consistency of authorial purpose. The modern twist also combines with the classic, allowing for the presence of individuality of creative choice in defining the 'meaning'.
I am not sure I understand you here--is the individual you speak of the author or the reader--Rand was referring to the author's choice or ability to convey a specific meaning according to the author's "metaphysical value-judgements."
I believe there is enough universality of awareness in the idea of "subconscious attraction" whereby ordinary readers of any era would know it is possible for people to hide certain truths from themselves so well as to appear 'blind' to their own reality. This behavior was not invented when Freud came along and an astute scholar of human nature such as JA surely would be cognizant of such a process. We can only surmise this from such evidence as offered by her penetrating insights into other areas of human self deception.
There is a difference between on one hand being blind to something about oneself (JA wrote of this often, e.g Emma and P&P) and on the other believing that one's actions are controlled by thoughts/feelings (whatever) that one does not even know about (and never discovers)! Again, there is no such "universality of awareness in subconscious attraction," not today, and especially not in JA's era. We can not surmise that because JA was insightful about human nature, that she believed that there is such a thing as a subconscious; one does not logically follow from the other. If you are going to base your argument on this, you must prove it, it is not enough, for me anyway, for you to state it as a given just because it is possible.
] Would I be wrong in saying that you (Danielle & Joan,too...etc) would classify me as a devotee of the 'New Criticism' school - discovering 'as many meanings in a text as my own ingenuity could possibly supply'? I honestly don't want to follow such thinking except in its appreciation of 'richness'. I try to find textual evidence in support of the author's intent.
This is one of the reasons that I was relunctant to post about this essay--because it is critical of 'New Criticism,' of course you are going to claim that you do not engage in it. But I have to agree with Joan, I have seen no convincing textual evidence presented by anyone on your side of the debate that supports your contention. You and those on your side have used exactly the phraseology presented in this essay, e.g "We are looking beyond the text; this is her irony; this is the richness, etc." Your argument rests mostly on the assertion that this is a possible interpretaion so JA must have intended it, but, again, that does not logically follow--just because it is possible, does not mean it is necessary (as Joan has stated many times).
Difficulties are encountered when a single sentence may be seen in two or more ways without any hint of purposeful ambiguity on JA's part. For example,..."I may safely promise you never to dance with him."...is used as evidence in both camps. Danielle has interpreted this as Lizzy's nonchalant acceptance of Darcy's dislike and the probable lack of future invitations from him, whereas I see it as a response to a challenge - even with a vehemence since 'never' is italicized.
Back into P&P land for a minute: the fact that the never was italicized is why I think it is mostly a joke (i.e. I will never dance with him because he will never ask me)--it actually indicates a certain degree of pragmatism, in that I don't think that Elizabeth believes that every man she encounters will find her attractive (because such a belief is not reasonable) (she does however expect people (men) to be polite). At this point in the story, Elizabeth has never even spoken to Mr. Darcy, her only personal interaction with him has been the overhearing of an insult. There is no reason for her to believe that she will ever be asked to dance by the man. I know that there are women who are attracted to men who reject and insult them, but there is no indcation that Elizabeth is one of them. By all accounts, she is instead attracted to agreeable, pleasing men (i.e. Wickham, Fitzwilliam, she even has a good opinion of Bingley), and judges others (Bingley sisters, Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy) accordingly.
In order to believe that this one statement reveals Elizabeth's inner turmoil at rejection and her resolution to "show him," you must completely disregard (or claim that it is "ironic") the following authorial statement: "and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous."
How do you see yourselves defined as literary critics?
Although I have outlined my views on literary criticism before, I would say that, like Joan, I am in the camp of the Chicago Critics. I believe that good authors specifically choose their characters, plots, and words to convey a specific meaning. JA in particular (and great writers generally) strove for unity; her characters, plot, themes, and irony are woven masterfully together. Believing as you do, IMO, undermines every one of these elements in one way or another, and, in my eyes, causes the tapestry to unravel. I must, however, also say that participating in this debate has greatly enhanced my understanding and my ability to see this beautiful tapestry in the first place. For that reason alone, I believe discussion such as this is useful for all concerned.
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