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  1. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Where does the influence of the author end?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Acglaphotis, Nov 21, 2008.

    I was just wondering, is the interpretation of a work by it's author any more valid than yours or mine? Can an extensive essay about the message of the The Legend Of Zelda be rendered invalid by the creator? I was reading on wikipedia about this, it's called "Death of the Author". A quote from the article:

    " In his essay, Barthes criticizes the reader's tendency to consider aspects of the author's identity—his political views, historical context, religion, ethnicity, psychology, or other biographical or personal attributes—to distill meaning from his work. In this critical schematic, the experiences and biases of the author serve as its definitive "explanation." For Barthes, this is a tidy, convenient method of reading and is sloppy and flawed: "To give a text an Author" and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it "is to impose a limit on that text." Readers must separate a literary work from its creator in order to liberate it from interpretive tyranny (a notion similar to Erich Auerbach's discussion of narrative tyranny in Biblical parables), for each piece of writing contains multiple layers and meanings. In a famous quotation, Barthes draws an analogy between text and textiles, declaring that a "text is a tissue [or fabric] of quotations," drawn from "innumerable centers of culture," rather than from one, individual experience. "
    What do you think?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what i think is that it's the height of ridiculousness, not to mention arrogance, for anyone to say they can tell what was in the mind of an author as a work was being written... or to 'interpret' what his/her intent was in writing it in the first place...

    my bottom line on all such stuff?... pretentious hogwash!
     
  3. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    I think the statement Barthes made had more to do with the content of the work itself, not that much with the intent.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't hold back mammamaia...tell us what you really think! LOL

    I fully agree. Writing obviously reflects the experiences and personal agendas of the author, but it's indeed a fool's errand for anyone except the author to "interpret" the author's mind for a particular literary work..or even a body of writings. Of course, professors in English Departments make a good living engaging in such academic masturbation in universities around the world.
     
  5. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Ah, postmodernism.

    *rubs temples*

    While in principle I think it's fair to say that there is a wide range of possible ways to read a text, and to a certain extent a "new" text is created by each reader as s/he interacts with it, most of the staunch proponents of this way of thinking tend to make my head hurt. Barthes isn't the worst of them by a long shot, but he still gets a titch self-righteous about it when he really shouldn't.

    That is, you can probably reimagine, say, "Hamlet" as almost anything, from a WWI-era battleground story to setting it during an alien invasion a la "Body Snatchers." Look at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for a very interesting interpretation of Hamlet. However, there is a story and a message in the original play. You can highlight or subvert the message, but you can't just ignore it and substitute your own.

    Perhaps an example might be in order.

    I had a professor in college (one of several, actually, but this is probably the most ridiculous one) who had us read "Frankenstein." Yes, that Frankenstein. This should have been very cool and interesting, especially with the book being so open to interpretation. (Is it about fear of technology? Is it about hubris? Is it about human rights?)

    The class (by which I mean everyone except me and my future wife) eventually decided that the book was about Dr. Frankenstein's latent homosexual urges being repressed until he was driven to create his perfect gay lover, whom he then drove out in a fury so he could remain closeted.

    ... We really didn't know what to say at that point. What can you say to that?

    So no, the author is not dead. Frankenstein can be interpreted many ways, and possibly someone who is homosexual could feel a frisson of identification with the way the creature is mistreated through no fault of his own, but that does not make it a book about homosexuality. There's a difference between identifying with a character and making claims about what a book "means." Too often, the claim that "the author is dead" is trumpeted around in order to cover up the fact that no one can find anything truly new to say about a given work of literature and so now we must justify the most outlandish, bizarre interpretations in order to keep publishing papers and remain faculty members in good standing.

    Personally, I find it much more interesting to strongly consider the world and the culture in which a given book was written, because I see literature and culture as being intertwined. Culture (and/or history) begets literature (or any art, really), which shapes thinking, which in turn alters the course of culture. Separating the author and his/her time and place from a work of literature robs it of much of its meaning, making it less of a work of art and more a limp hand-puppet, used to mouth whatever one's preferred socio-political agenda might be. The author was there, s/he was real, and s/he was trying to convey something - that is, after all, the point of writing, is it not? - and one ignores that at peril of losing something fundamental about the work. One can try to spot other influences, consider other ways to think about a text; it's not as though there is One True Meaning and all the rest are crap, but it's equally foolish to hurl the baby out with the bathwater and deny any and all influence from the original author.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alfred Hitchcock's grandaughter took a course in university about film, and they studied some of his films. She brought some of the material to him and his response was, "Wow, they saw that in my movie?"
     
  7. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    One could suppose that the way something is interpreted speaks more about the person doing the interpreting. Sometimes, people just mean what they say - what is heard sometimes goes through an internal filter, and therefore can be skewed by personal perceptions, experiences and opinions.
     
  8. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the link! Judging from the article, the premise is very funny. I think I'm getting that today =D.
     
  9. JGraham
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    JGraham Senior Member

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    That is one thing i truly enjoy about reading/writing. For the most part people would think there is no emotion involved with it, but by this it shows otherwise. I think that you can see the intention from an author, if said author allows it. Just by sharing their feeling and emotions through the characters you get a sense of what the author feels about a particular subject.
     

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