Wind in the Willows

deborah deborah at
Tue Jul 15 00:44:36 EDT 2003

On Mon, 14 Jul 2003 minnow at wrote:
|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 can't agree.  First of all, for the psychological-criticism-inclined
(which does not include me), just because an author says (and believes)
that he or she didn't intend an interpretation doesn't mean he or she
didn't intend it unconciously.  (Note that this is not my school of
thought, so I can't defend it well.)  More relevantly, most modern
schools of thought would deny that author's intent has much bearing on
whether an interpretation is borne out by the *text*.  The author created
the book, yes, and his or her intent is interesting to many, yes, but
the text *exists*, and what's there is there.  I strongly doubt that
Milton (either consciously or un- ) intended a powerfully feminist
and individualist reading of Paradise Lost, but it is sure as heck
textually supported.  Even reader response criticism, calls a reading a
transaction between an writer, a reader, and a *text*, giving the text
itself an existence independent of either author or reader (as indeed it
has).  This is one of the reasons I've always despised English teachers
who ask "What did Wordsworth intend to say in the Prelude?"  Nobody can
answer that question but Wordsworth.  Even Wordsworth couldn't even have
given a complete answer, I'm sure.  A more useful question for most
contexts is "what kind of reading can you make of the Prelude?"

Now, I admit to not having read Turn of the Screw, so I can't speak to
the analysis.  But if people see connections which DWJ denies between CL
and TotS, those connections may well lie in the text themselves.
A psychological critic might say DWJ didn't consciously intend the
connections, but, having read TotS, she unconciously derived one from
the other.  A reader response critic might say that DWJ created CL and
let in loose into a world which contains TotS, so that a common valid
reading transaction would include that TotS-based connection.  A new
critic might say it's irrelevant where it comes from, it only matters
that it's there.  (None of these are my theoretical schools of choice,
so forgive me if I have very minimalist flawed examples here.)   And a
postmodernist (that's me) might say that the intertextuality throws
certain aspects of both books into sharp relief -- even reading
backwards in time, and seeing TotS under the light of CL's influence --
and by the way, ooh, shiny!  (I'm sure you can see why this is my school
of choice.  ;)    )

So while DWJ's statement is intriguing, it says very little as to
whether it's an adequate anlysis of the text.

-deborah, who probably would have bitch-slapped Sam Beckett if I'd been
directing one of his plays

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