Question: What’s the Point? Answer: Read Watson’s Essay!

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From George Watson’s essay, “Are Poems Historical Acts”:

“If it sometimes helps, it does not follow that it always helps” (33).

I really like Watson’s essay.  At the beginning I was not so sure I would, but towards the end of his essay things kept clicking in my mind. And I thought to myself, “Ah something finally makes sense!” 

In class last Thursday after having been asked to write an essay using author intention and then hearing many reasons why using author intention didn’t work, I was admittedly confused.  I even raised my hand and asked, “Well, what’s the point in using it then, if it has so many flaws?”  But I think that Watson really answered my question.

 I was beginning to view author intention and historicism as completely pointless.  Hirsch claimed it helped make interpretation less objective but as I explained in my last blog, it seems no more objective than “facts” (which Eagleton showed to be subject to “value-judgments”).  But here, Watson explained the value of historicism to me in a way which I can understand.  His quote above, pretty much sums up my understanding of author intention’s value.  Sometimes some historical detail will be very important in one’s interpretation and reading.  The examples Watson uses being one’s view of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and what the author wrote the work as (was it meant to be read aloud, is it a play, a novel?).  And then other times, it won’t be so relevant or useful.  Just because “it sometimes helps, it does not follow that it always helps,” so if I feel historicism is useful it can help my argument, but it can still be a useful technique and not need to be used all the time.  Something can have its weaknesses and still have its uses.      

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