Migrane-inducing consequences of negating authorial intentions
Posted by Joan, too on July 28, 1998 at 22:30:37:
In response to A migraine-inducing topic...;-), written by Mylan on July 28, 1998 at 19:08:27
]Aristotelian: "...assumes that an author's various purposes should be consistent with one another and that every element of a work - plot, character, style, and so forth - should contribute to those purposes, not frustrate or divert attention from them."
] (In P&P context, the character of Lizzy frustrated me since her actions were not consistent with her purpose.
But her actions are consistent when considered within the context of upper class Regency society and if one takes as her purpose finding a husband who is both socially and financially appropriate and for whom she can have affection and respect, who will, in turn, have affection and respect for her. Lizzie is clearly not willing to marry solely for financial security, but neither is she willing to marry solely for romantic love without regard for financial security. None of her behavior is inconsistent with this purpose.
An example of the author's purposes frustrating or diverting attention from his/her purposes rather than contributing to them would exist if, indeed, JA did intend for the reader to believe that Lizzie was repressing an attraction for Darcy in direct conflict with her authorial statements to the contrary. If she did intend this, then she would not be following the Aristotelian precepts quoted above.
]Current controversies: "...Its crucial assumption is that literature is "constructed" not by authors but by environmental influences, and that neither authors nor readers can "transcend" such influences."
] I agree with this to a certain extend. I have always believe JA was a product of her environment [snip]
According to the assumption quoted above, the author's own environment becomes irrelevant, and the environment of the reader becomes the standard by which the writing is interpreted. It claims that it is possible neither for readers to understand the environmental forces of the author, nor for the author to prevent readers from replacing the author's environmental influences with their own.
] In my understanding of the [Kierkegaard] statement, this fits Lizzy quite well. She thought she hated Darcy because it conformed with what she knew of him, she then assumed that because she thought so, it must be a reality. At that point I, as a reader, thought the same as well, but we are both deceiving ourselves, because when we were made aware of the process of understanding Darcy's character, we are no longer being deceived.
This is, indeed, exactly what Lizzie did - as did I the first time I read the novel - although hate is probably too strong a word to use until she discovered his role in separating Jane and Bingley. (But this is completely independent of the issue of attraction)
] I don't think we can decide on who has the right interpretation [snip]
The issue really is not really "right" or "wrong" interpretation, but identifying the author's intended interpretation. In attempting to do this Aristotelian critics attempt to explain and evaluate literature as a product of human design, and believe that an author's interpretations can/should be arrived at by informing themselves as well as possible about the distinctive intentions of the authors they study and analyze the degree of skill that those authors showed in choosing literary means appropriate to their ends.
By contrast, Cox points out that:Currently fashionable theory is animated by the assumptions of Marx, Freud, and such contemporary continental thinkers as Michel Foucault. It is preoccupied with the ways in which political or psychosocial phenomena affect the processes of writing and reading. Its crucial assumption is that literature is "constructed" not by authors but by environmental influences, and that neither authors nor readers can "transcend" such influences.
andthe New Critics often proceeded as if the text could be understood apart from any consideration of authorial intentions. They neglected the author's ability to impose structure by using objectively ascertainable textual markers to include certain meanings and exclude others.
In other words, in effect, they declare the author's intentions irrelevant, and choose to make interpretations based on any philosophy that appeals to them. (And they would accord the writings of Aristotle himself the same treatment, although it is clear that this would not have been his intent.)
] because, like Cox said," ultimately, literary theory is about the human mind and its processes of communication. It is about our ability to understand what people say, write, and mean."
This is, indeed the heart of the matter, and has significant implications in other disciplines, as well, as Cox points out:Influential schools of legal thought that subject Constitutional rights to endless reinterpretation "in the light of current circumstances" depend on theories that posit the unknowability or irrelevance of the Founding Fathers' literary intentions.
If we are free to toss aside the actual intentions of the framers of the U.S. Constitution, and the written opinions handed down in trials conducted in the past, judges are then free to rewrite the laws without benefit of legislative or voter approval. For this reason alone I find the "New Critics" postion untenable. If, indeed, some of the intentions of the writers of the Constitution are nowadays irrelevant, it is the role of the legislature and/or the voters to amend it, not of the judges or juries to re-interpret it. On a "recreational" level, I dislike the notion that all of the work that an author does to make their writing communicate their intentions should be disregarded, but in many other disciplines, negating the intentions of an author can have significant effects on society as a whole.
- can of worms.... Kate 09:21:32 7/29/98 (3)
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