Thursday, April 17, 2008

Against Theory

I suppose I'll only be another voice in the chorus when I say that I think this reading was both insightful and brought something completely different to the course and our thinking about criticism. This argument that Knapp and Michaels bring forward hinges on something they talk about very early in the article. That is, "The mistake made by theorists is to imagine the possibility or desirability of moving from one term (the author's intended meaning) to a second term (the text's meaning) when actually the two terms are the same" (Knapp & Michaels 724). This really spoke to me when I read it because of my belief that one of the most pretentious things we can do as students is to begin to believe that we understand a work better than the writer of that work. Should we really be in a position to say what a work means in cases where the author has already stated it's meaning? I think that, in certain cases, it is beneficial to explore the meaning of a text, especially when the writer was not able to tell readers what he or she meant the text to say. In the case of Hirsch's explanation, it is clear to see the dichotomy that exists within his own explanation of criticism. To try and say that we need to find the meaning of a piece and also the intended meaning is to say that the author did not know what he or she was writing. This is a big leap to take and also one that I am not prepared to do without much trepidation. I think that to criticize a work or try to explain it's meaning is okay, but we should keep in mind that what we think may be completely off. It's not up for us to decide in most cases what works say, because the author already made that decision.

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