OT: What is literary truth?

Philip.Belben at eme.co.uk Philip.Belben at eme.co.uk
Tue Jun 10 03:47:52 EDT 2003

The tail end of a long argument, for the starting of which I feel bound to

Robyn> Are there differences in how you read extant texts and
Robyn> recent ones?

Minnow> I have never actually read a text that is not extant.

Robyn> So why did you make the distinction in the first place?
Robyn> It was your term, not mine.

[Philip interpolates]  Actually it was mine, not Minnow's.  I used the word in
an attempt to distinguish an existing text (being read) from one that was in the
process of creation (being written).

Charlie> Of course he can speak for himself, but I understood Philip to be
Charlie> distinguishing simply between 'producers of texts' (ie. writers)
Charlie> and interpreters of extant texts (ie readers). In which case
Charlie> 'extant' just refers to the fact that the text exists prior to the
Charlie> reader's reading it, but not prior to the writer's writing it.

Robyn> Yes, this is what I thought he was saying, but then he turned around
Robyn> and said that it wasn't a valid distinction.

[Philip Replies] I'm sorry if I gave that impression (I can't think where!).  I
was actually trying to make exactly the distinction that Charlie has pointed
out.  Thanks Charlie, for explaining it so well while I was away from the list.

Thanks too to Robyn, for explaining the mediaeval position.  I think I
understand now why you saw my original post as "backward".  I shall have another
look at my sources in the light of your clarification.

I must also apologise for not making clearer what I meant: not that the factual
interpretation was prevalent in the ME, merely that it started then.  Although I
admit I hadn't realised until I read Robyn's posts how much at that date it was
contrary to general thinking.

I generally associate the factual interpretation with the so-called "Age of
Reason", but I feared that someone might pop up and say No, no, it is much older
than that.  I therefore cited the ME as the earliest reference of which I was
aware.  Obviously my cunning stratagem backfired!  I shall try and explain my
ideas more clearly in future.

I hope this clears up this issue.  In any case, I would beg people on the list
not to get into such heated arguments on my account!


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