Wind in the Willows

Robyn Starkey rohina at
Mon Jul 14 16:52:32 EDT 2003

>I'm surprised you don't understand the distinction, which I had thought was

I asked you to clarify what *you* meant by it. I think the "well-known" 
distinction isn't really very clear. A lot of people use the term "read 
into" as I suggested, to dismiss readings that they don't like.

>One way to think of it might be: What is *in* the text may be subject to
>debate, with various opinions being expressed by author, reader, critic and
>so on.  What has been *read into* the text, provided always that the person
>doing the reading is capable of expressing him- or herself with reasonable
>clarity, is not subject to debate: that such *reading in* has been done is

See, I don't think this clarifies the issue at all. If there can be debate 
about what is in the text, how can there be no debate about what 
constitutes "reading in"? Surely one person's valid interpretation can be 
another's wild surmise. All this, of course, assumes that the readers are 
not operating in a malicious or sarcastic way when providing their various 

>One may think the person responsible has a bee in his or her
>bonnet and would read, say, an Oedipus complex into "The cat sat on the
>mat", or proto-feminism into "Have a banana! Let's all go down the
>Strand!", but if that is what that person has *read into* a text, that's
>the fact.  They did it, therefore it can be done, therefore it is a
>possible reading of the text, however daft a reading and however mistaken
>the premise upon which the reading has been based.

Your examples are of facetious readings. Are you saying that as long as the 
reading is "serious" it will be valid?

>Charles Manson's reading of Robert Heinlein's *Stranger In A Strange Land*
>was that it instructed him to commit ritual murder.  Nobody else including
>the author appears able to find that instruction there, and it thus seems
>likely it was not *in* the text, but was *read into* it by someone who was
>frankly deranged and might have found such an instruction almost anywhere.
>(*sigh*  Usually it's the bible they go by, which is less appalling for the
>author whose work is thus abused, the authors being safely long-dead.)

Okay, so this falls into my definition of malicious.

>A great deal of reference to and material derived from *The Turn of the
>Screw* has been *read into* *Charmed Life*.  DWJ is fairly confident that
>such is not *in* *Charmed Life*, for the simple reason that she has never
>read *The Turn of the Screw*.  It seems therefore to follow that if
>derivation from *The Turn of the Screw* is perceived in *Charmed Life*,
>this perception probably has its origin not with the author nor with the
>text but with the attempt of a particular reader, familiar with both texts,
>to explain as imitation what might better be seen as parallel development
>of an idea.  Not *in*, but *read into*, the text, apparently.

I entirely reject authorial intention as a definition or a limiter on what 
may or may not be a valid reading of a text. Authors may say all sorts of 
things about their texts, but I don't think readers are bound to agree with 
them. For example, Marion Zimmer Bradley at various times claimed that 
Mists of Avalon was not a neo-pagan influenced text. She may have had 
reasons for making these statements, but they are clearly bunk, as most 
readers can see.

I think in the case of DWJ and the Turn of the Screw, it is quite likely 
that what the readers see is *in* the text, but that does not mean DWJ put 
it there on purpose.

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