LotR (was Re: reviews (but not of MC))

deborah deborah at suberic.net
Fri Dec 12 15:22:02 EST 2003

On Fri, 12 Dec 2003, Melissa Proffitt wrote:

|On Fri, 12 Dec 2003 12:31:40 -0700, Otter Perry wrote:
|>I think that an allegory has to be intentional.
|>I'm not saying that an author's intention affects whether a work can be
|>as an allegory.  In a way, _anything_ can be interpreted as an allegory.
|>But if the author says she or he didn't write one, then she or he
|>didn't write one.

|That just takes it back to authorial intention trumping everything.  If it
|can be interpreted as an allegory, then it *is* an allegory for the sake of
|that reading.  And it isn't true that anything can be interpreted as an
|allegory; while many things may have allegorical meaning, a true allegory is
|something that corresponds to the original on many, many points, and they
|are quite rare.

Right on both what Otter and Melissa said.  If the author says he
didn't set write an allegory, then he didn't write one  -- but that
doesn't mean he didn't *produce* one.  (Where I'm inventing new meanings
for language, here: "write" to mean "write with intent", and "produce"
to mean "cause to exist".)

|If the only point of reading were to determine what an author meant, what he
|or she was thinking or intending in writing a book, it could just as well be
|served by asking the writer to tell you.  And, in fact, this would be the
|only way you could truly know authorial intent.

And sometimes not even then, unless you assume that authors (a) have
full conscious access to all their motivations, and (b) never lie.

|It would also mean that any
|personal reaction you had to a book would be wrong, because it was not
|intended by the author.  It would mean any new insight not specifically
|written into the book was invalid.

Exactly.  I read Paradise Lost as having a profoundly feminist message
that shows great ambivalence for and occasional distaste for the divine
(see .sig of the day), and I'll eat my keyboard if that was Milton's
intent.  But if the book works that way for me -- and under close
reading, too, not as some misreading thaat'sa a projection of my desire
to make it palatable to me -- then I hold my reading as valid and

|The distinction
|between the two is for me nonexistent; both must be discerned, more or less
|fully, by the reader, and both interpretations are going to come from what
|that reader already knows about reading and about life.  Whatever the author
|meant to say has no more validity than my own understanding of the text.
|And sometimes that's a good thing.

Yeah, what she said.

In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise?   -- Paradise Lost

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