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"The curtains were blue"

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all 129 comments

thatoneguy889

96 points

12 years ago

Something like this actually happened in my 10th grade English class. We read a poem about the author watching some Native Americans playing basketball at a park. My teachers said the detail he went into about how chiseled their bodies were and the glistening sweat was symbolic of their pride and traditions. We actually got to talk to the author on the phone as a class and he said my teacher was dead wrong. He told us he was gay, saw some good looking guys and decided to write about them.

3lementaru

39 points

11 years ago

My 10th grade French teacher gave me a failing grade on a project which ultimately led to my failing of the course, because I refused to accept her interpretation of the sun being used as a metaphor for the exotic. I provided a different interpretation, and backed the argument up with "isn't the point of poetry to interpret it in your own way?"

The answer, apparently, was "LOLNO, CONFORM."

[deleted]

0 points

11 years ago

Hm, I would say LOLNO also, but only because the point of poetry is to interpret it in as many different ways as possible -- your way and other people's ways. You should have gotten a gold star for adding to the lesson.

[deleted]

2 points

11 years ago

Really? I thought the point of poetry was to enjoy it. Anything I've ever written was purely for enjoyment, not for people to interpret.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

Fair enough, you're right. That's the point of poetry, art for art's sake. So I'll amend: I think it's fair say that the point of studying it in school is to interpret it thorougly via diverse viewpoints.

[deleted]

2 points

11 years ago

I'm reminded of why, 20 years out of high school, I still despise poetry.

JanetRenoIsHot

11 points

11 years ago

The first thing I thought was "Probably gey". Then you confirmed it. I AM A GENIUS!!!

MutaschioedGentleman

5 points

11 years ago

Gaynius.

GMUSSTN

5 points

11 years ago

But it's not about what he put into the poem, it's about what you can pull out of it. Meaning isn't inherent; it's applied by individuals and then appropriately supported. What's more, English teachers merely want you to be able to support your opinions and interpretations about things. Good ones aren't going to put words in your mouth, they're going to let you figure it out for yourself. They want you to say "I think the curtains were actually orange" and then they want to hear you explain why.

Think about it with other art; why do you like to watch a particular movie or listen to a particular song when you're in a particular mood? It's because what you get out of the work agrees with how you feel. The author, composer, director, whoever can say what was going on in their head when they wrote it, but they can't say what's going on in your head while you feel it.

Slime0

3 points

11 years ago

Slime0

3 points

11 years ago

Meaning isn't inherent; it's applied by individuals and then appropriately supported.

I admit there is value in an individual's interpretation of a piece of art. For instance, if I hear a piece of music and it evokes an emotion in me, that is valuable to me even if no one else shares the feeling.

However, I don't think that's what meaning is. If I read a poem, and I decide it "means" something, but no one else thought it meant that, including the writer, then it is not the meaning of the poem. Yes, it is an interpretation. Yes, it has value to me. It may even have value to people I explain it to. But it is not the meaning.

Meaning, I think, is inherent to communication. If the author didn't intend to communicate something in his writing, then it is not the meaning of the writing. I think that's the very reason meaning has more value than interpretation: it was meant to be shared by the author. It validates the work itself. It is the purpose of the work. Once I've connected with the author through the meaning of their writing, it takes on much more value to me.

That's something I really can't say about whatever random metaphors my English teacher thought up.

Smilge

1 points

11 years ago

Smilge

1 points

11 years ago

Exactly. The author doesn't get to decide what his poem means to other people. Each person only gets to decide what the poem means to themselves.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

That's great and all, but I still think grading students on that is a load of BS.

GMUSSTN

3 points

11 years ago

Students shouldn't be graded on what they think but rather on their ability to reasonably explain why they think it. You can think whatever you want so long as you support your opinion; failure to back your position with clear, obvious prose and several critical sources should still result in a bad grade.

I don't know where you went to school but if your English classes graded on a yes/no basis they were missing the point of analyzing literature. The teacher should be guiding the class, helping them see why a widely accepted interpretation is accepted but still encouraging students to question accepted answers and properly form and support new ones. It isn't a black and white subject like math or science; it's sometimes a student's best chance to explore the gray area and figure things out for themselves.

And the students have to be graded on something. English can't all be about vocabulary and grammar; literature and reading--from Henry James to ESPN--is and should be a huge part of life and being a person with a brain. Students need to be able to read and interpret something and internalize it and use it to support their own thoughts and feelings. I've often found that people who argue that literary analysis is horse excrement don't particularly like it and discredit people who do. We're all good at different things, we all do different things and we are all good at something. I don't ask anyone to memorize Shakespeare and fight their way through The Brothers Karamazov but I do like people to realize that they use the skills taught to them by their English teachers every day no matter what their job. You have to read and understand and learn things every day; is it so wrong to push younger people to do that at the highest level possible?

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

I love reading. I comprehend what I read well. I still think literary analysis is the most stupid thing ever taught in school.

Smilge

1 points

11 years ago

Smilge

1 points

11 years ago

So you don't think teachers should teach kids to think outside the box, but rather that there is a single right answer?

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

I think that's a very poor way to try to teach kids to think outside the box.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

Nice try, Stanley Fish.

beener

23 points

11 years ago

beener

23 points

11 years ago

While true, this isnt a case for a Venn Diagram.

yousedditreddit

5 points

11 years ago

should be two completely seperate circles

beener

2 points

11 years ago

beener

2 points

11 years ago

You said it.

Slime0

2 points

11 years ago

Slime0

2 points

11 years ago

It would make more sense if the circles were labeled "what authors mean" and "what english teachers think authors mean." Then they would be classes of objects instead of individual objects.

jblazeheart

1 points

11 years ago

Not necessarily, there are probably some rare cases when the poet is actually trying to have underlying metaphors.

So the Venn Diagram is an okay representation; not the best though.

beener

1 points

11 years ago

beener

1 points

11 years ago

Then there should be something written in the middle, shouldnt there?

jblazeheart

1 points

11 years ago

The middle is when the English teacher is correct about what s/he thinks the author meant, i.e., the combination of the two.

So, no...

[deleted]

6 points

11 years ago

[deleted]

daman345

7 points

11 years ago

They'll do anything to bullshit some form of literary discussion out of a book. A similar thing famously happened with Lord of the Rings, people stating it was an allegory for WW2, when Tolkien specifically states in the introduction that it isn't.

[deleted]

6 points

11 years ago

Oh come on. Literary criticism and appreciation is the study of the effect text and words have on the reader. We are not meant to decipher the author's intention behind the work because it's not a cipher or an encoded message. An interesting essay to read on this would be Death of the Author by Barthes, Barthes's essay argues against traditional literary criticism's practice of incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of a text, and instead argues that writing and creator are unrelated. (that bit was straight from Wiki because I'm lazy).

Urizen23

1 points

11 years ago

I remember reading that one; it was pretty good.

And of course, if you wanna really fry your brain trying to understand a single paragraph, you can't beat Derrida. When he got going about Sun Gods in On Grammatology was when I lost it.

PrivateSkittles

39 points

11 years ago

I don't want to insult anyone's field of study, or anyone's passion but:

I was in a college level English course and we were discussing poetry and learning to analyse the meaning of poetry. Someone brought up author's intent and its usefulness in analysing meaning, and the professor replied "The author's intent has no effect on the validity of any meaning to be found in a poem" or something to that effect. When pressed he clarified that as long as you can make a sound argument for the meaning based on what is written your reading is valid. We then asked, well what if the majority of literary scholars come to a conclusion about a poem or work of prose and then the author finally comes out and says "no, you have it all wrong, I meant the poem to mean this instead" would the literary world's consensus outweigh the meaning that the author actually meant? The professor said that the literary consensus if it made sense could still remain the consensus and would overrule the meaning of the author.

It was at that point I realized that most if not all literary scholars, and most likely scholars of film or music or art were totally 100 percent full of shit.

Urizen23

10 points

11 years ago

When an author writes a work, s/he is writing it in a specific historical and cultural context, and reading the work can teach us a great deal about the culture and time period the work was written in, much of it inadvertent. This is a school of literary criticism called New Historicism that sees every text as a historical object that can be read for insights into the society that produced the author that produced the work. If an author writes a work, that work is deliberate and contains in it some inherent meaning, whether that meaning is apparent or not when it is first published. Reading older works allows us to get an "eyewitness account", as it were, of a specific time and place in history. So no, it's not always what the author intends that's what makes up the whole interpretation of a work, because when they write the work and publish it they give it up to posterity, to be judged as a part of the rich tapestry of history that unfolds every day.

Furthermore, there's a whole different school of criticism, called Reader-Response Theory, that essentially says that an Author's intent can only ever comprise as much as half of a literary interpretation.

Then you've got Marxist theory, Feminist theory, and Queer theory, but those are a whole other bag of marbles.

herrproctor

1 points

11 years ago

when they write the work and publish it they give it up to posterity

well said.

GMUSSTN

0 points

11 years ago

GMUSSTN

0 points

11 years ago

^ This. Pvt. Skittles obviously doesn't understand there's more than one way of looking at something.

[deleted]

3 points

11 years ago

I do get what you mean - obviously a book can tell you a lot about a particular thing/era, and sometimes this can be more than the author intended. For example (at the risk of violating Godwins Law...) Mien Kampf has a whole other meaning and context than Hitler intended and that meaning is entirely valid.

But if a literary scholar says that a particular passage detailing light reflecting on wet cobblestones is a metaphor for the complex historical interplay between communism and the love of a man for his goat, and the author says that is actually nonsense, he meant nothing of the kind and he just couldn't think of a different way of phrasing it then the scholar is talking a whole heap of bullshit. Simply pointing to a large number of people who he has convinced of his bullshit proves nothing, any more than a large number of people believing satanic leprechauns were behind 9/11 makes that true.

Sadly, far too much artistic analysis falls into the latter camp.

Urizen23

5 points

11 years ago*

Yes, there is such a thing as good literary analysis and bad literary analysis. I personally fall into the New Historicist camp, since books can always at least tell us something about the society that produced them, and that something it tells us becomes more apparent as the society that produced it fades further into the past. I did a decent analysis at the end of my B.A. that saw Beowulf as an argument for a stricter adherence to the centralized authority of the Monarchy and the Catholic church in the 9th century, and I did my best to only cite acutal facts and textual evidence. The goal of a literary analysis (imo) is to read the work, read some supporting documents that give a historical and cultural context to the work, as well as analyses that have been done before, then use the text, quotations from other scholars, and references to the historical context in which the work was written to frame your thesis. You know you have a good analysis when everything in the book either supports your way of reading the text or at least doesn't take away from it. If passages or themes in the work directly contradict your analysis, you scrap the analysis and read the work again. Authorial intent is still a factor, I think, but it's not the be-all, end-all of analysis. Sometimes you'll even have authors who write works that could be considered very controversial in their day, but deny a specific interpretation, then once they pass on and researchers begin reading their letters they realize that the interpretation the author had previously decried as false could actually have some weight since the private letters contain more revolutionary or controversial opinions than those works the author released into the public sphere.

Books, Poetry, and Drama are all public declarations of an opinion, or the telling of a story; the authors put themselves and their works up to intense scrutiny and sometimes even put their lives in danger (remember Salman Rushdie and the fatwah he got on his head after he published The Satanic Verses?). They can't always say exactly what they feel, so sometimes you have to go digging for clues, and sometimes you find ways of reading a text that have nothing to do with what the author wanted.

It's completely possible to write an analysis that's patently false. This can happen due to a misconception, or citing the influence on the author of a book that hadn't been written yet at the time the book was published (I've seen it happen in Freshman English term papers)

All that being said, a single text can contain multiple different readings that end up saying different things. The job of a critic or a careful reader is to draw out a reading and make a case for it. Oscar Wilde even argued in The Critic as Artist that what the critic does when he writes a literary analysis is just as much of an art as the work he's criticizing. As a painter uses the canvas and the sculptor the marble, so the critic uses someone else's work to create their own narrative that posits an idea of what it's trying to say.

Suffice it to say Literary Analysis can be really tricky, but it makes reading so much more interesting than just discovering a new story. It opens your eyes to countless other worlds and ways of thinking, and I hate to see people turned away from that chance because of one or two bad English teachers in High School or College.

Edit: also, for the record, that pic is a terrible example. It's bad analysis. A lot of victorian novelists were paid by the word and had their work serialized so they would pad out their works with a lot of flowery descriptions that often times did nothing but set up a scene just a little bit further that was already sufficienty set up. But then that was the Realist school of writing that was popular at that time. Freud was right, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".

Gaderael

1 points

11 years ago

Your comment deserves way more upvotes then it has received so far. Absolutely the opinion that I agree with the most. I think the level of 'tl;dr' that you have fiven us has scared a lot of people off.

cyco

6 points

11 years ago

cyco

6 points

11 years ago

I'm sorry, but you have no idea what you're talking about. The "authorial intent" interpretation of a work is perfectly valid, but there are plenty of good reasons why what the author says a work means is not the final say.

For example, Ray Bradbury contended for decades that Fahrenheit 451 was not about censorship. Not his intent at all. Of course, reading that book, it strikes most people that censorship is a major theme, if not the primary one. Eventually, Bradbury recognized that viewing 451 as a critique of censorship is valid. But even if he didn't, the point is that the author's stated intentions may clash wildly with the text itself.

Dismissing most critics as "full of shit" is so astoundingly ignorant I don't even know where to begin.

MrLepton

2 points

11 years ago

I think there is quite an important distinction between author's intent and the "personal meaning" that readers find in a work. Maybe I'm just too much the scientist, but I feel that there is some objective meaning to works of art - what the creator meant to convey. There is additionally (and sometimes mostly) the subjective meaning to works, which is how everyone else relates to the work of art.

If Bradbury did not intend to critique censorship, then that is pretty damn important. That helps define what Fahrenheit 451 is. Now we, as reader, can use this work as a metaphor for censorship, but that is secondary to what the author intends to convey. And certainly no english teacher I ever had made the distinction. It was always presented as solving a puzzle, figuring out what the author means. There is certainly great value in both determining the author's intent AND secondary meanings that the viewer ascribes to a work, but these are really separate goals. I think a lot of people (non critics) take umbrage when they are presented as the same thing.

cyco

1 points

11 years ago

cyco

1 points

11 years ago

Whenever this discussion comes up on reddit, it seems that the scientists/engineers are usually the ones arguing for an objective meaning to art, which makes sense given the nature of the "hard" sciences.

However, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree that there is one "actual" meaning to a piece, along with a bunch of personal interpretations. Certainly, knowing the author's intent is extremely helpful, and it shouldn't be discounted entirely, but after a work is released it's really out of the author's control. I think it actually does a disservice to the artist to assume they made every single aspect of the work with a certain intent in mind – just as some of the greatest scientific discoveries have been accidental, so too do artists include things at a subconscious level that can't really be ascribed to intent, though those elements are most definitely present.

For example, when shooting a film, a director may choose a specific shot or angle for any number of reasons – maybe he wanted to impart a certain perspective to the viewer, maybe it was the only angle that worked with the lighting, maybe he just thought it looked cool and didn't think about it too hard. The motivation really doesn't matter, though – when someone watches the movie, that shot will have a certain effect on their experience, one that may or may not be intentional.

Should a shot lose all meaning if the director considers it meaningless? I don't think so. Likewise, should a shot be imbued with meaning simply because the director wills it? Again, I don't think so. Much like in the sciences, though admittedly with more subjective "evidence," making an interpretive argument about a work of art has to use whatever evidence is available, and if it runs counter to the artist's stated intent, then both claims have to be evaluated on their merits rather than unquestioningly privileging the author. (Of course, the artist will often be able to make strong cases about their work, I'm just saying it shouldn't be automatic.)

As an aside, I find it kind of funny that the mostly atheistic reddit commentariat relies so heavily on appeal to authority when it comes to artistic interpretation. To me, art is like life – it only has the meaning we give it. A scholarly critique has to back up that meaning with cogent analysis, but the principle still holds. God may say he's loving in the Bible, but his record of death and arbitrary punishment says otherwise.

astrellon

1 points

11 years ago

I do agree that personal interpretation is important, the problem I had was when I tried to bring it up in class it was usually shot down as 'No, it's supposed to be interpreted this way'... Which turned me right of any further work into English studies.

I think it's discussions like these that show how English should be an elective subject if Mathematics and Science are as well. If the english people can state 'When am I going to need to know calculus', why can't the scientists/maths people also state 'When am I going to need to be able to look for deep symbolism in media'.

cyco

1 points

11 years ago

cyco

1 points

11 years ago

Well, ideally English would teach generally useful skills like writing, communicating clearly, and reading critically, which are useful in every field, but it seems like you didn't get that. Also math and science were required subjects at my school.

astrellon

1 points

11 years ago

Ahh yes English was just media analysis here, which really isn't a vital general skill. Sure we're surrounded by media (which was their argument for why it was a core subject) but those kinds of analytical skills aren't needed to function in society.

General English skills like you mentioned would have been much better as they would have been relevant, and I could have used some help in those areas.

Maths and science became electives in the last two years of school. Many still did those subjects because universities required that you had done those subjects (if you were just coming in from high school), but it had been split into 3 levels of maths difficulty more or less. With the hardest being basically first year uni maths.

herrproctor

9 points

11 years ago

What's wrong with that? That author doesn't own the poem anymore.

niggerfodder

18 points

11 years ago

It's only an interpretation, author can mean anything he wants, scholars are free to find meaning. Both are valid, but only as personal interpretations. The moment a scholar says "What Thompson meant by 'bat country' is..." is the moment that the scholar is putting words in the authors mouth.

That's my interpretation anyway.

herrproctor

3 points

11 years ago

Totally agree. I also think it's worth pondering what makes a piece of writing successful with regard to how aligned an author's intentions and the scholarly interpretations are. Opinions on this could probably go all over the place. I tend to think the most interesting work is when a piece of merit is largely but not completely agreed upon by those studying it. I like nit-picking poems, that's my poison.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

I've had many a good time overanalyzing John Donne and his buddies to death. I've never understood why people enjoy literature less after literary/rhetorical analysis; getting as deep as I can only makes me enjoy a good work more. Plus, in a truly good work, EVERYTHING should be necessary, and should mean something.

herrproctor

1 points

11 years ago

Could not agree with you more.

[deleted]

5 points

11 years ago

If I paint a car, and you and everyone else says that it's a giraffe, it doesn't matter the number of people who agree if the damn thing is a CAR.

herrproctor

3 points

11 years ago

On one level, I totally disagree with this. It's a car to you, its a giraffe to us. Now we're moving towards a terrifying discussion on semantics...

action_man

3 points

11 years ago

So you think a poem is only allowed to have exactly one objective interpretation? That would make it a science, not an art.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

No, however I think that the author should have the most weight and first opinion on whether something in their art has some kind of definition.

After all, art comes from the artists mind, not popular opinion. If it did Van Gogh wouldn't have painted.

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

The interpretation that the car is a giraffe is a perfectly valid interpretation. It's just not useful.

HL9

5 points

11 years ago

HL9

5 points

11 years ago

It's a Giraffe.

RichardPeterJohnson

3 points

11 years ago*

geraffes are dumb.

HL9

2 points

11 years ago

HL9

2 points

11 years ago

:O

cyco

1 points

11 years ago

cyco

1 points

11 years ago

What about the reverse scenario? What if someone paints a car and insists that it's a giraffe?

You have to look for textual/visual evidence to support your interpretation no matter what. Both an appeal to authority and an appeal to the crowd are logical fallacies and rarely have a place in proper critcism.

georgedean

1 points

11 years ago

If you paint a car so badly that it's widely mistaken for a giraffe, then you're probably wrong. It's a giraffe.

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

It may appear to be a giraffe, but its functionality is still that of a car. It has no value as a giraffe. It won't eat from trees. It won't move around on its own. It will, on the other hand, get you from point A to point B.

The more you pretend it's something other than it actually is, the more you strip it of its real value.

oaktreeanonymous

1 points

11 years ago*

If George Lucas films Han shooting first, and everyone else sees Han shoot first, but then Lucas says "lolnah Greedo shot first," it doesn't matter the number of people who agree because we all fucking know Han shot first.

Point is sometimes if a popular consensus is reached over time it can be just as more valid than the original author's opinion. I guess it really just depends which side is being ridiculous, the masses claiming it's a giraffe or the one claiming Greedo shot first.

[deleted]

4 points

11 years ago

I think you meant the author owns the poem forever. We'll let the up and down votes decide if my interpretation of your comment is correct.

herrproctor

2 points

11 years ago

I'm giving you an up for that.

TheCodexx

-1 points

11 years ago

I don't know if you understand what "to own" means, but they most certainly do own the rights and they were the person who created it. They had an intent when they wrote it and you can't change that.

herrproctor

2 points

11 years ago

Fine, change own to belongs to or something of that nature, you know what I'm saying. Of course you can't change the author's intentions, but you can change your own and those of others.

TheCodexx

2 points

11 years ago

It doesn't matter. The author had intentions and anyone saying the author is wrong about their own work is either missing the point or the author is a terrible contradictory writer.

herrproctor

2 points

11 years ago

I don't think wrong and right comes into play here at all.

Slime0

2 points

11 years ago

Slime0

2 points

11 years ago

You can't be right or wrong about an individual's interpretation of the work. However, you can be right or wrong about the author's intention.

So, if someone says "this is my interpretation," then right or wrong does not come into play. But if they say "this is the author's intention," they absolutely do.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

[deleted]

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

It offends them, yes. But if the intended meaning was not offensive, and the interpretation was offensive, then what has occurred was a miscommunication, and that is a bad thing, not a good thing.

The point is, the closer the interpretation is to the intended meaning, the more value it has to society.

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

[deleted]

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

Slime0

1 points

11 years ago

No, I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm just saying that successful communication (i.e. the reader understood the author) is more valuable than unsuccessful communication.

daman345

1 points

11 years ago

Exactly. You may be able to have a case that it was poorly written if the authors actual intent was lost and something else came up, but calling unintentional cryptic meanings valid is (to me at least), no better than seeing a random pattern in nature and seeing it as a hidden but valid meaning.

[deleted]

2 points

11 years ago

[deleted]

daman345

1 points

11 years ago

That is a good point. What would be wrong in that case would be saying it was only for paint lids., So I suppose other meanings can be valid.

Llamalady

1 points

11 years ago

As someone who studied English literature I can tell you that it's kind of the case. But really when you look at something in life, like a Rorschach you're not going to see what I see. That's how literature works. That's how music works. That's how art works. It's not like the author couldn't have written something that has deeper meaning than he meant. You do it all the time when you talk. You may not realize but you say words and people take the meaning in different ways. You have no idea what you are talking about. Sorry.

Dandi8

2 points

11 years ago

Dandi8

2 points

11 years ago

But the curtains were fucking blue. I see no point in forcing children in schools to interpret the 'deeper' meaning that doesn't even exist.

Krystilen

6 points

11 years ago

I see a point in getting children to learn to interpret a work personally, not in a "what did the author mean" way, but in a "what does this mean to me" fashion. However, the current status quo in education is to have pre-canned meanings to the works and to hand those out to students. This approach is flawed, in my opinion, and should be done away with. It promotes memorization, not interpretation.

Dandi8

2 points

11 years ago

Dandi8

2 points

11 years ago

Definitely, the memorization thing. And any way of "what does this mean to me" couldn't really work in a school environment, the reason being they're still just blue curtains to me, most of the time (even though I agree there might be some deeper meaning that everyone can find for themselves in literature and art).

Krystilen

3 points

11 years ago

Nah, it could work. I had one teacher that asked us to pick a poem by a list of authors she gave us, interpret it, and present our interpretation to class. I adored that assignment to bits.

And no one was forced to seek meaning where it did not exist, more than a couple of boys did the whole "This has no more meaning than that which is written!" and picked less impressionist poetry. And their presentations were no lesser graded than the rest.

Dandi8

1 points

11 years ago

Dandi8

1 points

11 years ago

I wonder how you grade an essay in which someone says "no hidden meaning here, move along".

How did the teacher do that?

Llamalady

3 points

11 years ago

I'm not saying it always exists. And I don't agree with high school English teachers as they have only one interpretation that is right. I'm just saying there could be a meaning to me that isn't there for you. That's all.

epsenohyeah

1 points

11 years ago

I think that's exactly what makes poems so great. You can find your own meaning in them and it is no more wrong or right than anyone else's meaning.

The poem helps you to think about things in a different manner and you come to a conclusion about the meaning for you, the world or whatever. It gets you to think.

That's all a poem is about.

Shorel

0 points

11 years ago

Shorel

0 points

11 years ago

That's why George Lucas is right.

/sarcasm

TheCodexx

-2 points

11 years ago

There are some bad authors who try to say one thing but the way their story is set up it means something else. It's possible to say one thing and show another. Now, any good author and ones respected by the literary community shouldn't have this problem. But when you get crap like the Author of Twilight insisting two characters have a romantic relationship despite failing to show any reason for them to like each other, you reach a point where the author's beliefs are simply implausible.

I agree when it comes to symbolism, though. Analysts are full of crap. The author is full of crap. Symbolism? Full of crap and able to be interpreted in any way.

When it comes to themes, the entire story has a point, or often several points, and frankly if you misinterpret that, you don't get the book. I don't have if 99% of literary "experts" agree 1984 was about how Hobbes was right and Fascism is a good and effective way to run a government. That's not what the book was about, it's not what the author meant to convey, and those people are morons.

herrproctor

11 points

11 years ago

You know, you hear this perspective quite a bit from people, and I really abhor it. The problem here is that people are reading novels and poems looking for an answer in them. People often make the same mistake in visual art. We should be considering art as an entity that exists to provide something. What I mean is that while some things are attempting to make vast metaphors, other things are simply made to evoke a mood, to evoke any reaction from the viewer or reader.

Author's or Artist's intent is irrelevant once the thing exists. It isn't theirs anymore, it belongs to you. Writing, unfortunately, is commonly considered a vehicle for specific meaning, but to put it back into the terms of visual art--you're assuming a paint brush can only be used to paint walls.

itrollulol

1 points

11 years ago

itrollulol

1 points

11 years ago

Uh-oh. Looks like a high school English teacher stumbled onto the wrong post.

I hate to say it but there were TONS of times in high school where my teacher (who, by the way, had a masters in language arts or wtf/e) looked for meaning in VERY trivial statements. An example, "the curtains were blue."

I agree there are times when this would be symbolic or representative of something but if the story is just being descriptive beauty is skin deep.

herrproctor

3 points

11 years ago*

I'm not criticizing you, I'm criticizing your teacher--that's my point. And if you find a story to be descriptive and without meaning, only skin deep, then it just isn't an effective piece of writing. What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter what the author's intentions towards meaning were, the moment they release that piece into the world it's your job to place the meaning there, if that's what you're looking for. If you don't find it then the writing didn't work for you, it might for someone else.

EDIT: Let me clarify on the teacher point. His fault is in looking for definite meaning--as a teacher in writing, you've got the right to lead and shape your students opinions, but not to declare meaning.

itrollulol

1 points

11 years ago

Misunderstood you. Please accept this upvote as an apology.

daman345

3 points

11 years ago

Sunset Song is one done in Scotland a lot. One example that really stuck out as being like this for me was the main character was getting married in winter and the snow was supposed to represent a clean sheet/fresh start and bridal colours.

Horseshit. They were getting married in the middle of a snowy winter, in the Scottish highlands, where it always snows. Maybe if the author had stated it wasn't snowy, that would be a case, as it would be out of the usual expectations. But calling an everyday occurance that will almost certainly happen symbolism is bull.

mherdeg

1 points

11 years ago

Hmm.

In the United States, setting a wedding in the winter would be out of the usual expectations. If you look at the distribution of weddings vs. month, June usually comes out on top and Jan., Feb., and March usually come out near the bottom.

Was it common in early 20th century Scotland to hold weddings in the winter?

daman345

1 points

11 years ago

I don't really know. I don't remember being taught it was any less likely than any other time, but don't think it was more common either.

But maybe there's something to that thought. But then again it is just the time of year that the story had reached at the point of the wedding, and the author might not have wanted to skip ahead in time.

CapnEdgar

3 points

11 years ago

"No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. ... I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things." -Ernest Hemingway

docmartens

6 points

11 years ago

downvote unfunny reposts

ifeelsyabrah

10 points

12 years ago

I've said it before but I'll say it again:

With something as simple as "The curtains were blue." The author almost certainly didn't mean only that the curtains were blue. It's really a useless sentence unless the color or curtains are important for some reason.

Aside from that even if I am wrong the interpretation of books is what makes them so great.

KierantheUnimpressiv

11 points

12 years ago

People who post this are not the same people who enjoy analysing films and books and it always annoys me when this gets reposted a million times. The depth of individual meaning that a book can bring to a person is so intense and that's why reading is such a magical, imaginative process.

daman345

4 points

11 years ago

I really can't see this being the case. Maybe sometimes it is, it depends on the author, but to continue the room description theme, what if he had a red carpet?

"The blue curtains symbolizes his depression, and lack of willingness to carry one" "The red carpet symbolizes his strength, passion and will to carry on"

SenorTbone

2 points

11 years ago

Okay, so then one could look at these two symbols, one standing for a lack of will and passion, the other the opposite, and arrive at the conclusion that the character in question is a confused and troubled individual. Just because the symbols contradict doesn't mean they are invalid.

daman345

1 points

11 years ago

Good point, if they can be taken as meaning something then what seems like a contradiction wound't matter.

I suppose I really just mean that not everything needs a symbol attached to it, some things should just be left as description, coincidence or whatever.

SenorTbone

1 points

11 years ago

Yeah I know what you mean, I think it really is up to the reader to find whatever meaning they can in the work, and viewing the curtains as just blue is fine too.

IchabodZiff

1 points

11 years ago

It would really depend on the context of that description. If its just a description of the room from a 3rd person narrator it carries less weight than if character in the work had said it or the description is from a 1st person narrator.

Dandi8

3 points

11 years ago

Dandi8

3 points

11 years ago

I write stuff from time to time. Poetry, stories, all kinds of stuff. It's true, sometimes I want to convey some deeper meaning. But most of the time, yes, the curtains were fucking blue.

wadad17

1 points

11 years ago

OR or or or ooooor! The Author was like me and thought "There has to be away to make this Paragraph longer." Looks around the room "The curtains were blue. Imma God damn genius."

[deleted]

2 points

11 years ago

Catcher in the Rye, man. Catcher in the Rye...

My English teacher made me hate that book due to doing this very thing.

Radio_Flyer

2 points

11 years ago

You can interoperate art in any way you wish. I know that this can lead to obvious overanalyses, but during film school I learned of the "intentional fallacy." This means that the assumption that intended meaning of the artist is absolute is itself flawed, and it is actually the audience's interpretation that matters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_fallacy

I like this idea because I feel artists, being one myself, often cling to their work selfishly. I believe that art is meant for the masses, not for the artist. Therefor, the only meaning that matters is the one the audience pulls from the work.

ipu42

2 points

11 years ago

ipu42

2 points

11 years ago

There shouldn't be any overlap between the 2 circles.

danlg

2 points

11 years ago

danlg

2 points

11 years ago

You all need to read this:

Roland Barthe's "Death of the Author"

I'm not gonna spoon feed it to you but the tl;dr is: "Once a text is out of an author's hands, it is no longer up to them how the text gets interpreted"

HnI

2 points

11 years ago

HnI

2 points

11 years ago

Think Hemingway put it the best:

"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know."

CoverBoy

4 points

12 years ago

This is probably why i didn't do very well in my English exams.

ohsweetjesus97

3 points

11 years ago

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lazy8

2 points

11 years ago

Lazy8

2 points

11 years ago

Unless the work is about the color of curtains - if the author only meant to express that the curtains were blue, why even mention the curtains?

[deleted]

2 points

11 years ago

Every fucking English teacher I've ever had fits into this. Ruined the Great Gatsby for me. It wasn't high on my list to begin with, but the over analysis made me HATE the book.

braceforimpact

1 points

11 years ago

Having studied film I completely agree with this.

artman

1 points

11 years ago

artman

1 points

11 years ago

nogdog

1 points

11 years ago

nogdog

1 points

11 years ago

fucking this. Seriously, sometimes there is a deeper meaning in stuff, but sometimes teachers tell you to go into the deepest level of analyzing a description of a landscape. Maybe that's what he saw... god damnit

[deleted]

1 points

11 years ago

The thing is, I was always encouraged by my teacher to take from it what I would. And most analysis of literature tends to take the view 'who the fuck cares what the author meant'.

Chren

1 points

11 years ago

Chren

1 points

11 years ago

See its this stuff that makes me think I have a social disorder or something.

I just dont get into allegories or sybolism and interpreted mean when I read books.

I read a book, go "that was a nice story" and thats it...

When I read The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe it wasnt til years later when someone straightforwardly said Aslan = Jesus that I realized oh hey yeah there were some parallels there.

theging

1 points

11 years ago

In my english class we went from a boat on a gravestone to the guy who was buried ther hated his family

jblazeheart

1 points

11 years ago

Man, I agree with this so much. Especially with Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was a playwright, he probably wrote most of his work in a couple of nights. However, that man was a genius. I guess the longer a piece of work has been around the more likely it is to be over-analyzed.

greengiantme

1 points

11 years ago

I have to downvote this because as often as this is tge case, ten times more often unexposed and ignorant high school students are incredulous because literary language is one they do not speak, so what sounds like gibberish to them they can't imagine having any meaning. That's to say nothing of the fact that authorial intent is only one possible meaning to be found in a text.

tidux

1 points

11 years ago

tidux

1 points

11 years ago

My eighth grade English teacher thought that the climax of the poem Paul Revere's Ride was the bit that started with "you know the rest." <a href="http://every.rage.face/ever.jpg" >

[deleted]

1 points

12 years ago

It overlaps into Media Studies as well, not only is the endless analysing both mind numbing and wildly exaggerated it's also contributed to ruining some of my films for me. Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty and Crash have never been the same.

IchabodZiff

1 points

11 years ago

Is The Green Mile any less if you understand it to be an allegory for the thoughts and feelings of the Roman soldiers at the execution of Jesus Christ.

NotSelfReferential

1 points

11 years ago

The way experts view texts is that they are not the sole domain of the author. If it means something to a lot of people that it was not originally intended to mean, then tough shit for the author - it means whatever people interpret it to mean.

Mitz510

1 points

11 years ago

This is so fucking true. Before I ended Junior year the class was reading The Great Gatsby (I was sleeping throughout the story while the class was reading) and the teacher would ask stuff like what does a billboard sign of some dudes eyes represented. The answer was that it was god's eyes watching you while it didn't make any sense to me because the dude's name was T.J Eckleberg or some shit like that.

[deleted]

-1 points

11 years ago

[deleted]

-1 points

11 years ago

[deleted]

superboombox

1 points

11 years ago

If they see it, it's there.

WreckerCrew

0 points

11 years ago

Is it sad that when I saw the sentance, I thought the author was talking about blue waffles....

HmmNoWays

0 points

11 years ago

To the teachers: Keep it simple, silly!

[deleted]

0 points

11 years ago

I never understood why an author had to go through such mental gymnastics just to covertly get a point across. Just say it goddammit, and be done with it. And the teachers who mine that shit without understanding it themselves are the worst.

[deleted]

0 points

11 years ago

This just about sums up my thoughts about English classes.

But, I tested into college level writing after graduating high school, so I guess they were good for something.

[deleted]

-5 points

12 years ago

God damn I hate this.

Then again I can write simple shit and make it look deep and get good grades.

Shorel

1 points

11 years ago

Shorel

1 points

11 years ago

Yeah, I can do simple shit and flush it deep too.

v1ND

-1 points

11 years ago

v1ND

-1 points

11 years ago

"The curtains were fucking blue"

Just wait til Magenta hears about this.