Wright: Reading is rated MA, and is approved for mature audiences only

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"Reading a text is no longer considered an innocent activity.  Post-structuralism undermines the notion that the text contains a stable meaning" (Wright 393).

How can a text contain a stable meaning.  The author intended meaning A, but reader recieved meaning B.  If there is a stable meaning, then who got it, and how can we prove it?  I am growing very weary of circular arguments, much like a dog chasing their tail, the end result should they catch that tail is a taste of their own ass.

Near the end of the essay we are given another quote, "...meanings of which [the author] had only a blurred view" (Wright 399). 

It is true that the author can only "intend" so much in their work, and it is unfair to hold them accountable for any new meanings that might be found in difference to the meaning that was intended, but I still have trouble seeing why the author's intended meaning is the most "useful" and "best" meaning that can be found.

2 Comments

Angela Palumbo said:

This is a good entry James. I know what you mean about a dog chasing his own tail. I feel like that a lot with certain styles of criticism. I really like formalism and psychoanalysis because you can go so many directions with them. Some styles, however, make me feel like pulling my hair out. Post-structuralism is one of those kinds of styles.

Greta Carroll said:

James, I like your analogy of the dog trying to bite his own tail. So much of critical theory seems to be exactly that. We just go around and around in a big circle. For example, in poststructuralism there is the idea that language is ambiguous because all definitions are based on other words which are also based on other words and on and on. I think to some degree it gets to a certain point where we just have to stop deconstructing things or there will be no “telos” (meaning purpose of end).

I also agree with what you’re saying about the author. Authors, no matter how incredibly intelligent they may be, can only have intended so much when they were writing a work. However, I don’t think that anyone is positing that “the author's intended meaning is the most "useful" and "best" meaning that can be found,” except for the intentionalists and who are they to say that author intention is the best? I mean there are certainly critics out there who claim that the author’s intended meaning is the most important thing, but there are also critics out there who claim that the reader’s response is the most important. When it all comes down to it, the critics can’t agree on what is “best.” And I think what this really means is that there is no “best” meaning. As long as you have an argument to support your claim that make sense, you are right, not matter what school of criticism you use.

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