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

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat Dec 13 15:37:50 EST 2003

On Fri, 12 Dec 2003 15:22:02 -0500 (EST), deborah wrote:

>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".)

I like those new meanings.  I wonder what Jane Austen would think if she
knew her writing was classed as romance these days?

>|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.

I've seen a few authors give markedly different interpretations of what they
meant, sometimes not even years apart, so yes.  On the other hand, I think
those unconscious motivations, if even the author can't ferret them out,
might as well not exist as far as authorial intention goes.  Maybe I should
be saying "conscious intention" or something like that.  It *is* interesting
to hear what an author consciously intended in his or her writing, even if
it's only for the sake of another reading.  David Farland said that in
writing the Runelords series he was exploring economic injustice and the
flaws of capitalism.  Hmmmm.

>|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 that's a projection of my desire
>to make it palatable to me -- then I hold my reading as valid and

I'm with you on this.  I think _Paradise Lost_ did more to stretch my
understanding of feminism than any other text.

>|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.

We're both so smart.  Too bad we can't get paid for just standing around
exuding smartness.  :)

Melissa Proffitt

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