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

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Sun Dec 14 04:25:40 EST 2003


Deborah on Robyn on me:
>>Even if they weren't, I can imagine
> |>intentionally writing a piece which permitted a *range* of
interpretations.
> |
> |Interesting word choice, Charlie. You "permit" your readers to interpret
> |your works? Now we see the connection between "author" and "authority,"
or
> |"ooh, what a giveaway," as Dennis from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
says.

This is my favourite bit in the movie! I always play it to my students when
I have my annual rant about fantasy monarchies (as done to death on an
earlier thread... :-))

> I don't think Charlie's words here say that *he* permits, but that his
> piece does.  Or rather, I don't know what he meant, but Grammar Girl
> insists that's what he *said*.  Which is fair -- as a non-authorial
> intent person, I do think that a piece has to permit a reading, to an
> extent.  That is, I believe in misreadings.

That is indeed what I meant, but I'm sorry if it the word was misleading.
Here's an analogy - the view from the back window of my bedroom. From there
you can see a church spire, a few gardens, a line of trees on the brow of a
distant hill. The window 'permits' you to look at all these things, though
you may find some more interesting than others and look at them more often.
It *doesn't* permit you to look at the road at the front of the house. For
window here, read 'text' - it may permit a range of readings, while ruling
others out. In this analogy, the role of the author equates to that of the
architect or builder (authors fulfil both functions!). The architect/builder
decides where to place the window, and in that sense does exercise some
authority (in effect 'forbidding' you to look at the road in front of the
house, though such authoritarian (hmm!) language seems inappropriate to me).
But he or she doesn't force you to look at one thing rather than another out
of the window - and perhaps 'intended' simply to provide a wide-ranging and
various view, without intending in a series of separate conscious acts that
you look at each individual thing. That was the point I was trying to make
to Melissa, probably rather ineptly.

This way of looking at it isn't my own invention, of coure - it's Wolfgang
Iser's.

Charlie

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