X Marks the Spot ... Sometimes.

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"Because writers of poems, plays, and stories are usually not systematic philosophers, it is not appropriate to go "message hunting" as though their works contained nothing but ideas" (120).
                Edgar V Roberts, Writing About Literature

I must confess that I often go "message hunting" when I probably shouldn't.  I didn't when I was younger, just reading books because I thought reading was fun.  However, in high school, my English teachers always instructed us to completely tear apart a piece of writing to root out the underlying ideas that weren't apparent on the surface.  Obviously, this is important at times, but sometimes those ideas just aren't there.  The writer really was just describing a character walking past a window, not suggesting a metaphorical comparison of the outside landscape to the life the character wishes she were living.  

Ever since then, I find myself overanalyzing a piece of fiction, something Roberts tells us not to do.  Nonetheless, I don't see anything wrong with that, as long as I still enjoy the reading process.  As long as I realize the improbability of the outlandish hunted messages I find, I think it's perfectly fine to do that.  I said in an earlier blog that while I agree that authors are not always intentionally making some sort of philosophical implication in every word they choose while writing, maybe they're still making a subconscious choice.  

It really doesn't matter, because when it comes down to it, the only thing important thing is the reader's interpretation.  Sometimes interpretation requires some "message hunting," so while I understand Roberts point, I only agree to an extent.  I think we need to go message hunting as long as we realize we won't always find buried treasure.

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3 Comments

Jessica Orlowski said:

First of all, check out Brooke's blog, "Why So Drab." She has a lot of interesting stuff to say:

http://blogs.setonhill.edu/BrookeKuehn/2009/11/why_so_drab.html

Secondly... I know what you mean. I overanalyze ALL the time, and that's why I didn't like the English major at first. But I kind of feel as if the purpose of the major is to see things on a different, more in-depth level. Therefore, I agree with Roberts to an extent, as well. However, analysis is a necessary part to understanding the deeper meanings of literary works!

Jessie Krehlik said:

It seems like we're all on the same page here, Karyssa. Josie blogged about this, and so did I. I feel like when I spend all my time focusing on finding the theme of a story, I lose track of the story, and then I become disinterested in it as a whole. Sometimes, it really is best to just sit back and enjoy the reading.

Jess: Thanks! I'll go check out her blog now. Also, in reply to your comment, I agree that a literary work could not be understood unless you analyze it properly.

Jessie: I think most people blogged about this idea of Roberts'. I guess it all depends on the individual. I find that I get more engrossed in the story if I make sure to do some in-depth analysis. Finding those hidden meanings and suggestions makes me appreciate the author on a different level than for his/her ability to write a good story.

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