Posted by Joan, too on July 28, 1998 at 17:32:39:
In response to What's my line?..., written by Nathalie R. on July 28, 1998 at 03:19:02
] 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.
A distinction that I believe is useful to make is the one between making interpretations for personal enjoyment and making them with the assumption that they were intended by the author. IMO, a reader is free to make any personal interpretation that provides them with enjoyment of a literary work, whether intended by the author or not, to enhance their own enjoyment of a book. (There are plenty of good examples of both to be seen on the BoI board.) But again IMO, the reader is not free to claim that interpretations that they make were intended by an author without definitive evidence - evidence not based solely on subjective interpretation.
A parallel distinction can also be drawn with relation to history (proveable fact) vs historical fiction. I have read (and enjoyed) many "modern" works of fiction based on the lives of historical figures, some of which take completely opposite views of the character in question. Richard III is an example in which some authors choose to portray him as evil and directly responsible for the murder of the two young princes, while others portray him sympathetically as a misunderstood man, a victim of political intrigue and a convenient scapegoat. This is not to say that any of the fictitious interpretations of his character is necessarily historically correct. Richard III makes an excellent topic for historical fiction exactly because no irrefutable historical evidence has been found as to his role in the death of the princes. It is still interesting and entertaining to speculate on the possibilities, however it cannot be demonstrated that any of them irrefutably represent the real Richard III.
In the same way, when examining the work of authors of other eras, I believe that before assuming that interpretations which are out of step with the history and philosophy of the author's era, his/her writing style and personal values (to the extent that they are known) are intended by the author, one must have solid proof - not merely a possibility that such an interpretation can theoretically be made.
] 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.
This particular example is not one that can be used as definitive evidence of authorial intent; both of the above interpretations are possible and the quotation cited is not an authorial statement. And neither interpretation either definitvely supports or precludes unconscious attraction. On the other hand, "Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him." is a direct and unambiguous authorial statement, and since it is consistently supported by other similar authorial statements, can reasonably be taken as the author's intended interpretation. It is this sort of support for the unconscious attraction interpretation that is lacking in the novel. At the very least, if JA had intended to convey that unconscious attraction existed, a clue such as having Lizzie ultimately discover/recognize this unconscious attraction by the time that Jane asked her how long she had loved Darcy would have been given. Since Lizzie never recognizes it and JA never contradicts her previous authorial statements to the contrary by indicating in a clearly stated authorial statement that it existed, thus negating her previous authorial statements, IMO there is no definitive basis for assuming that JA intended such an interpretation to be made.
- Interpretive objectivity Erin 20:07:42 7/28/98 (1)
- Subjective or objective Joan, too 00:16:15 7/29/98 (0)
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