[ilds] baboonism

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sat Jul 7 21:50:04 PDT 2007


Bruce comments:

 > I disagree with this, absolutely disagree.  My reading
 > of literature is not to consider equally any possible
 > reading of a text.  I want to know what the author is
 > doing and intending, not to understand and give equal
 > weight to whatever may be occurring in the reader's mind.

So, Beethoven's main theme from his 5th Symphony was taken up in WWII as 
"V" for victory in morse code -- certainly this wasn't Beethoven's 
intention, but you'd rather not consider such a thing as ever having 
importance?  I know you'd find that interesting, which is why I don't 
really believe you right now...  Did Shakespeare intend Sonnet 18 in the 
'heteronormative' way most readers read it when we put it next to Sonnet 
20?  With those two side by side, we might speculate about Shakespeare's 
intentions and the truly remarkable (and exciting) prospect of teenage 
love expressed using those words.  Many, many readers take up an 
author's words and use them to self-express or self-describe -- that has 
little to do with the author, but I still think it's fascinating to see 
literature work in that manner, giving a reader a way of articulating 
his or her inner life.

Better still, and closer to Durrell, Henry Miller wrote _Tropic of 
Cancer_, which was banned and went through some of the most important 
legal trials for censorship in the 20th Century.  It's perfectly viable 
to ask if we'd have the California pornography industry today if it 
weren't for those trials (sigh) -- yet, that wasn't part of Miller's 
intentions, so we should ignore it.  Right?

Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" caused a riot in Paris, which also 
wasn't his intention.  We should disregard that as well?  We have no 
interest in the result of a work?

So, for Durrell, _Bitter Lemons_ went on to win the Duff Cooper Memorial 
Prize, which is pretty clearly political.  If that wasn't his intent, 
should we again say that Durrell's intentions differ from the social and 
cultural context of the book's reception, so we disregard the history of 
the book?  That denies bibliography, and I thought we'd agreed you like 
bibliography...

I'd rather keep that field wide, wide open.  I'm not going to dismiss an 
author's intentions (though I do understand why some people do), but I'm 
also not going to say my assumptions about those intentions are the only 
thing we have to talk about (and they will *always* be assumptions about 
intentions, even with good evidence, or very likely projections in the 
Freudian sense).

Besides, no one suggested we should "consider equally any possible 
reading of a text" -- to suggest such a project is what we're talking 
about is simply a way of shutting down the debate.  Surely we should 
give at least some merit to what readers actually do while reading a 
book...  Surely we should discuss the merits of an idea rather than 
dismissing it because we can loosely and vaguely associate it with an 
ill-defined "ism" we arbitrarily despise...  I have human failings, but 
I'd at least like to aspire to avoiding such things.

Perhaps we'll just have to disagree about this one and get back to the 
book.  I respect where you're coming from, Bruce, and I have sympathy 
for your position.  However, I disagree with you about this being an 
"either / or" problem -- I want "and," and I think that plurality comes 
closer to the complex way that the world is.

Best,
James

Bruce Redwine wrote:
> No, I disagree with this, absolutely disagree.  My reading of literature is not to consider equally any possible reading of a text.  I want to know what the author is doing and intending, not to understand and give equal weight to whatever may be occurring in the reader's mind.
> 
> Bruce
> 
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: James Gifford <odos.fanourios at gmail.com>
>> Sent: Jul 7, 2007 7:02 PM
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] baboonism
>>
>> Moreover, let's no forget that a book can have an effect independent of 
>> the author's intentions.  Analyzing those impacts is a viable as 
>> analyzing the author's intentions or contexts, though it certainly has 
>> a motivation.  Choosing to exclude those same things is equally driven 
>> by a motivation.
>>
>> Best,
>> James
> 
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