[ilds] Readings

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sun May 4 13:11:14 PDT 2008


Hey Bruce,

I'll go along with that, especially about my own mortality as a reader, 
though I must admit that I'm still far more confident of my reading than 
I am the author's intentions.

But, perhaps this is the rub:

> Being the author of "bredwine," I state unequivocally 
> that I had no intention of insinuating the Blessed 
> Sacrament.  Although considering the ingenuity of 
> your reading, perhaps I should have.  This does not, 
> by the way, prove your point, for I don't consider 
> anything I write "literature."

Well now, what if my reading has become so persuasive that you, the 
author, choose to revise your supposed intentions?  I think the texts we 
all tend to find interesting enough to discuss in this venue (apart from 
email addresses) are sufficiently flexible and open to complex 
interpretive activities that the author's own views, reviews, and 
revisions to supposed intentions are possible.  Which intention, then, 
do I accept as a reader?  The author's first intention, final writing of 
the work, or final revised intention?  Should I skip one, bury some 
others, or are they all different texts I can read in a variety of 
responsible and reckless ways?

But, more problematic for me is the potential for my reading of 
"bre(a)dwine" (or, now it's hubris, of /Hamlet/) to become so prominent 
and persuasive that it forces a revision of the supposed nature of the 
text.  Eliot is perhaps the greatest exponent of this, and Bloom does a 
fine job of revising Eliot as per his own instructions -- the strong 
reader writes a new text (including essays...) that lead to a revision 
of how we collectively perceive past texts.  Bill may comment with more 
insight, but I believe the interpretation that the Epilogue to /The 
Tempest/ is Shakespeare's farewell to the theatre is fallacious, yet 
it's probably the most popular, sustained, and used interpretation out 
there.  I like it a great deal, and I doubt I can make any responsible 
decision on its "truth" value.  We also can't read Marlowe without the 
rosy glass of Shax standing in the way, and while Bloom might privilege 
authors in this regard above readers, these authors only come to these 
positions through erroneous misprisions /as/ readers.  Can I ever find 
irony in Anonymous' works?

So, do readings live on when readers die?  I think they exert some 
influence, though I don't know how I'd interpret it.  Did Durrell want 
to change how we read Eliot?  Dunno, but his book seems to accomplish 
that goal for me regardless of Durrell's potential intentions.  Either 
way, but the time I get the book, the author's intentions are lost in 
history, and I have only this shadow or fragment of his/her intentions 
with which to work, blurred through the chaos of multiple possibilities 
and random choices or even errors.  I can point to the text and I can 
demonstrate a reading, but the author seems to have faded away, just 
like Nietzsche's God, leaving us only the cathedrals of the text.

Is the positing of providence and a divine creator shaping every 
beautiful thing I see part of our collective wish to avoid reading 
something that wasn't authored?  If Durrell found beauty in a printer's 
error and decided to keep it, am I wrong in reading that error 
beautifully in the first edition yet correct in reading it beautifully 
in the second?

Responsible readings that foreclose the range of potential 
interpretations to those within a plausible scope of possibility defined 
by the constructed notion of the author are great (like reading god's 
mind to know god's will), and I use them in my classroom, but the 
reckless and lively readings that dispense with the limits of the author 
and embrace the text in hand are also exciting and productive.  What 
does the existential reader do?  As a reader, and as usual, I want both 
options and any others too.

> Musicians are considered artists but art 
> critics are not.  I think this disparity has 
> led literary critics to invent Deconstruction 
> and even the score. 

Okay, I'll buy that, but I think there is an artistry in fine readings 
and criticism.  Yet, may I read your comment on that disparity as the 
critics inventing Deconstruction and also the score?  Derrida had much 
to say about his desire to write, but even creative individuals are able 
to write literary criticism -- Durrell did, and he did it well.  I doubt 
  he gave a fig if Eliot wrote him to say "That is not what I meant at 
all.  That is not it at all."

I find in LD's interviews that when asked about his intentions, the 
bafflegab pours out.  He comments in one interview with Lyn Goldman that 
his characters, after he creates them, going on to live lives of their 
own among readers independent of him, which I rather like:

http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/202/300/agora/2004/v3n01/209.htm

It's just past the mid-point.

Best,
James


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