Is Authorial Intent an Interesting Question?

Watch
thehistorybore
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 5 years ago
#1
Well, is it?

In all types of literature, is there any value in considering the author's purpose, or is this unnecessary and unrelated to interpretation of the text?

The postmodernists didn't think so; Roland Barthes wrote on this matter, details of which can be found here, but I would be interested to see what the rest of TSR thinks.

Posted here due to lack of a Literature Debate Forum. If anyone with the authority to create one sees this, I'm sure it would be a welcome addition to the debate and current affairs section!
0
reply
Bobby Crazykite
Badges: 8
Rep:
?
#2
Report 5 years ago
#2
(Original post by thehistorybore)
Well, is it?

In all types of literature, is there any value in considering the author's purpose, or is this unnecessary and unrelated to interpretation of the text?

The postmodernists didn't think so; Roland Barthes wrote on this matter, details of which can be found here, but I would be interested to see what the rest of TSR thinks.

Posted here due to lack of a Literature Debate Forum. If anyone with the authority to create one sees this, I'm sure it would be a welcome addition to the debate and current affairs section!
Well, this is a very interesting question for me, as I myself am a kind of writer and find my writing as therapeutical thing to deal with my personal and mental problems, so for me writing is a very personal thing, a way to overcome my fears, my obsessive thoughts and so on. I think, even when I do not explicitly talk about myself in my writings (I tried various things, like stream of consciousness type of writing and surrealism), there still is something from my consciousness deepest depths.

I believe if a person writes something he or she is still there, it's impossible to write something that has nothing to do with you. The way you choose things to write about already can indicate something. Of course, I am aware that this can be abused as to make reading of books a way to disclose something about the personality of their authors, sometimes completely off-point by the way. I think not all people do write in a similar fashion, I mean, putting all their personality into their work. And if they, for example, try to work with other texts (intertextuality) and tradition, they are less personal in their writings. But even then it's not sterile and depersonalized.

It's absurd to claim that literature exists in a sort of Platonic world of ideas that has nothing to do with who creates it. It's not true, I do not believe, that a person who is racist or abuses children can be a good writer and his or her work is to be praised despite the personality we tend to dislike. I think human A is ONE, not many. At least, on some level there is one personality (Hermann Hesse in 'Steppenwolf' would argue that we are not one though ), so if A wrote a wonderful book, and in between writing it raped and killed people, it is delusional to suggest his book has nothing to do with it whatsoever, as maybe some metaphore came to that person whilst slitting someone's throat, who knows.

The other thing is that sometimes what an author intends is not the whole scale of what he or she in fact puts into the writing. For instance, person A wanted to write about a family where domestic violence takes place, in order to maintain his or her position that it is abominable. But the hidden thing may be that the choice for this particular subject is based subconsciously on the fact that A witnessed domestic violence as a child and was afraid of it. Or person B writes about some strange characters, that for a psychologist indicate some serious mental illness, that B in fact may have, but is unaware of having. I sometimes wonder does my writing indicate such things .

Of course, as I have already said, this way of speculation can render critique of literature into gossip and yellow press, but it is not trustworthy to rule out the possibility that some things the author may even be unaware, appear in his or her texts. Of course, some people can write extremely consciously and control everything. Or they might immitate others and not let people understand their intentions. It is an interesting topic, after all.
1
reply
sevendaughters
Badges: 8
Rep:
?
#3
Report 5 years ago
#3
It is largely unknowable. Even if the author writes a treatise on what exactly was meant by every line, paragraph, chapter and sum total of every work they composed, they could still not really delve within the psychological aspects of themselves to fully understand what makes them tick.

Like the above poster, whose response I really respect, I write and it does have a therapeutic/cathartic nature. But that in itself only indicates a desire to pursue a certain kind of therapy and does not dictate why I chose that representation of an object or person or situation over any of the infinite possible choices that I could have made. Of course, a post-structuralist or a psychoanalytical reading could offer a particular kind of insight and I welcome them out of academic curiosity. But a text lives a separate life to its creator.

Intent in and of itself is also something of a misnomer as intent can be vague. For example: a friend of mine is writing a really good Ph.D up that includes a great chapter on the work of William Faulkner. He summarises the general debate around Faulkner's views on modernity and development and the consensus, my friend decides, is that Faulkner is a broadly humane 'good' writer pro-modernity with problematic elements. For instance, he is one of few writers of his era to deal directly and deeply with issues of intellectual disability. His intent, though never overtly expressed, would appear noble and charitable. Liberal even in sentiment.

However, my friend argues (I am paraphrasing really badly here but let's just assume for now) the manner in which he constructs certain heroic or sympathetic disabled characters chimes with an agrarian or 'simpler' rural desire that not only turns its back on ideas of modernity by suggesting that it comes with corruption and interlinks with the birth of modern neoliberalism. Furthermore, as I recall, certain constructions of certain disabled characters (or the narration about those characters by non-disabled characters) suggests influence by many of the writers of the day who were dialoguing with broadly eugenicist writers and scientists.

Faulkner's intent in the most part seems to be noble, progressive even for its time. But in the fullness of our understanding of the problems faced by persons with disability, intent alone can't sustain him from criticism.
0
reply
RobML
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#4
Report 5 years ago
#4
Trying to interpret a text as a thing in itself is no different than trying to interpret a random string of words generated by a computer- absolutely pointless.
0
reply
spacepirate-James
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#5
Report 5 years ago
#5
I definitely think there can be considerable value in considering authorial intent, simply because I don't think texts exist outside a structure of encoding, and are always by definition intertextual or at least heteroglossic; so on one hand authorial intent may be quite obvious, but equally the diversity of voices and languages in texts also means that the author may not realise their own authorial intent [which hints at the points of a few posters above me].
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Do you think receiving Teacher Assessed Grades will impact your future?

I'm worried it will negatively impact me getting into university/college (98)
39.36%
I'm worried that I’m not academically prepared for the next stage in my educational journey (29)
11.65%
I'm worried it will impact my future career (18)
7.23%
I'm worried that my grades will be seen as ‘lesser’ because I didn’t take exams (57)
22.89%
I don’t think that receiving these grades will impact my future (30)
12.05%
I think that receiving these grades will affect me in another way (let us know in the discussion!) (17)
6.83%

Watched Threads

View All