[ilds] authenticity and borrowing

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Dec 3 14:42:59 PST 2007


Hi Bill,

 > *Let me stop you here. Can you point to texts that
 > juxtapose the authentic and the inauthentic in the
 > Quartet? And could you then tell us what is
 > intrinsically present in the texts that render one
 > authentic and the other inauthentic?

Perhaps I didn't say it well.  My reading (my use of the text or 
imposition of an interpretation, transitory as it may be) is that we 
begin the Quartet (a distinct work from Justine) looking at Darley's 
attempts to reconstruct his past and to discover their 'truth.'  You 
give a good example of this problem:

> I assume that you mean more than "does Justine
 > authentically love Darley, or does Justine
 > authentically love Nessim?"

We're goaded with that question, if we want to give the text that kind 
of agency do goad us, but as we continue reading, I think it becomes 
increasingly difficult to keep up that kind of an approach.  Justine is 
a character in a book, and the 'authenticity' is something we foist on 
the text.  The book becomes authentic when we recognize that this 
distinction is not subject to final resolutions.

> You know, of course, by this time that I think
 > nothing is intrinsic in words -- especially meaning.
 > Meaning is imposed by the interpreter. So you have a
 > hard row to hoe or rake -- as you will.

I'd follow along that argument, but are not some meanings easier to 
impose than others?  For instance, I'd need to put considerable energy 
into an extensively considered and evidence-based interpretation that 
Justine was a trained seal and Darley is an allegory for the life of 
Winston Churchill's cat.  I'm sure I could impose such a reading, but it 
would require considerably greater effort than other options and would 
likely face greater disagreement in my community...

So, I suppose the kind of authenticity Anis refers to would ultimately 
become an issue for statisticians, and we might get an average reality, 
or the mean of reality, but the mean reality of the Quartet would sure 
exclude a tremendous proportion of the text and would require a highly 
complex series of interpretive activities -- I think the easier course 
is to abandon the activity and allow for plurality.

For instance, you ask (prod):

 > I assume that you mean more than "does Justine
 > authentically love Darley, or does Justine
 > authentically love Nessim?"

Why can't we replace the "or" with an "and," while also admitting that 
the answer might only be true for one reader at one point in the text, 
while another reader could have a different interpretation at the same 
moment, and both might differ at different points or in different 
readings.  It's anachronistic, but the murder mystery genre tripping its 
way through _Monsieur_ stumbles so much that I give up on answers and 
instead prefer to read it as an open taunt to the reader's attempts to 
construct stability or interpretations that grant resolution to textual 
ambiguities or problems (Colonel Mustard did it in the drawing room with 
the candlestick).

Justine's love is open to interpretation (authentic or faked, or perhaps 
both at different points and in different interpretations), but I like 
to think it's easier if we allow those interpretations to be 
free-ranging activities open to change at different points in the text 
by different readers (or in different reading moments).  Stabilizing the 
interpretations, as if internal textual coherence were somehow to be 
created, becomes terribly difficult in this instance (at least for me). 
  My interpretation makes me want to abandon that enterprise and the 
underlying assumption of coherence, perhaps via Rorty...

Of course, our own Reed Way Dasenbrock has launched a wonderful response 
to Fish's notion of the utterly passive text constructed by the reader 
in the act of reading -- he says it more articulately via Davidson, but 
the gist is that insofar as we can recognize that our interpretations 
differ, don't we still have access to a text?  In making that comparison 
between interpretations, haven't those interpretations themselves become 
texts that we are able to compare?  Perhaps rather than creating or 
writing the texts we read, we just interpret them differently. 
Otherwise, on what basis do we suggest our interpretations differ?  I 
only wish Reed would talk about that problem through the Quartet -- it 
would seem almost ideal, or at least "easier."

Oh, and the ground is now frozen in Edmonton, so I'll avoid all hoeing 
for the time being.  Can I shovel instead?

And perhaps you can tell me, does Sutcliffe write Blanford or does 
Blanford write Sutclife?  I can never decide...  It's too inconvenient 
to make up my mind and stick to it.

Best,
Jamie


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