Over-analysing books and School

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:52 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I made soup without paprika. You taste paprika. There may indeed be subtle complexities of flavor that I do not pick up on, but others do, so we discuss how the taste of paprika arrived in my soup. The TASTE of paprika is certainly there, while ACTUAL paprika is not. I love those discussions, because different people experience physical and mental and emotional reality completely differently (see my son tasting sesame in EVERYTHING except food with actual sesame in it). By all means, if you eat my soup and want to discuss the paprika taste, I will discuss it with you. However, if you insist there is paprika in it, after I have explained there is not, I will become annoyed. The TASTE is there, brought about by different factors and ingredients, but I did not, in fact, actually add it.


See, that is what I'm trying to say: from a lot of interpretation standpoints (and most of the ones that are concerned with the literature itself and not, for example, your biography or the social climate around you when you wrote), what you actually added is irrelevant. They aren't trying to cook your soup over again, they're trying to talk about the experience of eating it. If the reader or critic comments on what you meant (ie, your intent, or what you added to the soup) you're well within your rights to say that they're wrong (though, because we all have those pesky subconsciouses, they'd be free to suggest that you *did* mean it and didn't know it, but that's neither here nor there). But if they comment on what the work itself means or says (ie, interpreting the text, discussing the taste) then you're not automatically any more qualified to tell them they're wrong than they are to do likewise.

Make sense?

Ixtellor wrote:Is a tree ever just a tree?


Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by "just a tree".

If you mean, can a tree simply be taken literally as a tree? Sure. And you'll get a different interpretation of a text with that literal interpretation in that place than you would have if you'd seen the tree as a symbol or whatever else.

However, if you mean "can 'it's just a tree' ever be the only correct interpretation" then no. Because there is no one 'correct' interpretation, so the interpretation by which it's "just a tree" is always going to be one of several.

And yes, to an english teacher, "it's just a tree" is rarely going to be an acceptable answer from a student, because that's the easiest (and therefore laziest) interpretation, the one anyone can do, and since there are always more, they want you to do some actual work.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:53 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Make sense?

o.O

It did before, and it still does now. I'm more concerned if you understand what I was trying to say.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:00 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:
Belial wrote:Make sense?

o.O

It did before, and it still does now. I'm more concerned if you understand what I was trying to say.


Hah. Just making sure we agree, because we started from "I am the authority on interpreting my poetry because I wrote it", which was the core of my disagreement.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

I was more concerned with the "This is what this means" / "No, THIS is what this means" argument. No-one can say what it DOES mean, merely what they THINK it means. The author can say what it means insofar as what he intended to say / write / paint, and I think he had the freedom to say what something he created is NOT (there is no paprika, it merely tastes like it to you).

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:16 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I was more concerned with the "This is what this means" / "No, THIS is what this means" argument. No-one can say what it DOES mean, merely what they THINK it means.


With you here. (As a sidenote, just because there's no one correct interpretation doesn't mean some interpretations aren't better than others. It's all about how you support it...that's neither here nor there, I just know that the more you say "there is no correct answer" the more people hear "all answers are equal" and I'd hate to perpetuate that)

The author can say what it means insofar as what he intended to say / write / paint


They can say what they meant, anyway. I would stop short of saying that the author can say what the text means.

and I think he had the freedom to say what something he created is NOT (there is no paprika, it merely tastes like it to you).


I don't really follow this. What do you mean by "what it is not"? You're either commenting on your intent (I didn't mean that), in which case you are probably the authority, or you're commenting on interpretation of meaning from the text (I don't interpret this as meaning that), in which case your word is as good as anyone else's. I'm not sure I follow which you're trying to comment on here.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Ixtellor » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:57 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by "just a tree".


First let me say this is going to vary depending on literary value.

I love R.A. Salvatore, but odds are when he writes "Mr X jumps over an oak tree" he didn't have any deeper meaning.

But when you read the literary classics, there is going to be a lot of purpose symbolism. Plants tend to mean renewal or growth or whatever. (oak tree = strong/solid).

Every time I tell my wife she is just 'reading too much into it and applying her own perceptions' she digs up some obscure interview with an author where they say "I used an oak tree in this scene to symbolize the protaganists growth.... "

Obviously you don't get a lot of info like this from the old stuff, but all the modern award winning authors have tons of this stuff. Its why I started a thread on Junot Diaz and his fantastic four symbology. He said it live in front of me from about 4 feet away.

Belial wrote:And yes, to an english teacher, "it's just a tree" is rarely going to be an acceptable answer from a student, because that's the easiest (and therefore laziest) interpretation, the one anyone can do, and since there are always .


I think a safe rule for teachers would be "if they ask you about something that seems benign, it isn't".


I personally don't derive as much pleasure by reading with the goal of looking for subtext. My wife informs me this makes me a dolt and intellecutally lazy, but I am comfortable with this. I do enjoy interesting stories about subtext, but prefer to have it spoon fed to me.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Fri Nov 13, 2009 7:49 pm UTC

First let me say this is going to vary depending on literary value.

I love R.A. Salvatore, but odds are when he writes "Mr X jumps over an oak tree" he didn't have any deeper meaning.

But when you read the literary classics, there is going to be a lot of purpose symbolism. Plants tend to mean renewal or growth or whatever. (oak tree = strong/solid).


Knowing about RA Salvatore only really gives you an inkling as to whether he *meant* the oak tree to symbolize something or have some deeper meaning, not whether it does.

Knowing the quality of his work is probably going to tell you the likelihood and difficulty of extracting anything more meaningful, though.

The difference is fine, but kindof important.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Nyx » Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:53 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
and I think he had the freedom to say what something he created is NOT (there is no paprika, it merely tastes like it to you).


I don't really follow this. What do you mean by "what it is not"? You're either commenting on your intent (I didn't mean that), in which case you are probably the authority, or you're commenting on interpretation of meaning from the text (I don't interpret this as meaning that), in which case your word is as good as anyone else's. I'm not sure I follow which you're trying to comment on here.


I think what he was trying to suggest was that the author may not be able to say what the text does say, because as discussed previously it can mean many different things depending on the individual interpretation of the reader even if the authors intent was different. But, is that a two way street? If he (the author) isn't the end of the road in saying "this is what it means" then does he still not have the final say when trying to point out what it does not mean? Are the two one in the same, and thereby saying what something doesn't mean he is saying what it in fact does mean?

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Chicostick » Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:11 pm UTC

For those interested in learning more about this stuff there's a few things you can read to sort of help out, although many of these things are pretty complicated.

Torsten Pettersson (the guy I mentioned in my last post) has a great essay that he wrote about the pliability of literary works called The Literary Work as a Pliable Entity: Combining Realism and Pluralism. It's one of the best essays I've read on the subject, it's inside a book called Is There a Single Right Interpretation? This essay is really informative while remaining easy fro anyone to pick up and understand, and he offers several examples from known works of literature to back up what he is saying, which is great. After reading stuff like Roman Ingarden, Schleiermacher, Wolfgang Iser, and others that don't supply any sort of examples that are easily grasped, reading this was refreshing.

I'm actually currently enrolled in a class that is discussing the ideas of hermeneutical theory, and I have to say it's one of the toughest classes I've had so far. Being an English major and having never had a really challenging course it's definitely refreshing to actually have to struggle to grasp things.

Also, asking an author "what does it mean?" is a stupid question. They know what they wanted it to mean, and what they had in mind, but that isn't the be all end all of what it means. So it's essentially just like your paprika example, but the soup metaphor is sort of clumsy because it's taking something abstract and turning it into "is present" or "is not present." As far as this goes, if you didn't put paprika in the soup, there isn't any in the soup regardless of what they taste.

But if you wrote an elaborate book about cars and status, where the price of the car indicates how wealthy someone is (yeah it's stupid but bear with me). Then someone reads it and says the color of the car is an indication of the emotional tendencies of the person that drives it. You may not have put that there, but if they can see that and provide examples, then it has significance and is there. It's like looking at clouds, yes they are just water vapor and other things floating around up there, but sometimes they're also a bunny rabbit. And that bunny rabbit might be a gun from another angle. Depends on who is looking.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Dazmilar » Sat Nov 14, 2009 4:50 am UTC

On the subject of meaning, I pretty much agree with everything Belial's said. The interaction between the reader and the text is what makes literature interesting, and timeless. If I re-read something I read ten years ago, I get new things from it because I'm a different person now. And you can try reading the text from other points of view. One of my more interesting English classes centered around reading various Western classics from the perspective of a woman living in Iran, the collection of books chosen from Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Complaining about length when writing a five-paragraph essay sounds tremendously like high school whining. If you can finish a critical essay about a novel in two paragraphs, you have a shallow argument.

PatrickRsGhost wrote:You want a summary or term paper on the book? Here's one in five sentences or less: Two allegedly gay hobos go to work on a farm. One's short; the other's big and retarded. The retarded one likes small, furry animals and dreams of a farm with nothing but said small, furry animals. One day the retard does something bad, and the short guy has to kill him. Short guy then goes on with his life still working on the farm, possibly pairing up with one of the other workers.


Your 1th grade English teacher has read Of Mice and Men. Why do you think he or she would need a summary of it? That's a book report, not a term paper, and it's a shame if your English teacher required a summary.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Internetmeme » Sun Nov 15, 2009 2:07 am UTC

What about when an author gets annoyed about a certain interpretation that is not at all what they meant to write, according to him.

Case in point:
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Sad story, though: The girl who it is about died a few months ago.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby PAstrychef » Sun Nov 15, 2009 5:32 am UTC

If I eat a bowl of soup and I wold swear that there was paprika in it, and the cook insisted that there was no paprika, then I would have to think that they wanted the soup to taste like paprika was in it-because the soup they served had that flavor as part of the taste. They added all of the spices and flavorings to end up with a soup that seemed to have paprika in it. So the paprika flavor was important, even if they didn't realize it when they were making the soup. Look into molecular gastronomy if you want to know how to create a flavor in the mouth that's not in the food. Neat stuff.
So if I get symbol x in your work and you insist that you didn't put symbol x into your work-then I pulled something out of your writing that was important, but that you didn't necessarily see as important when you wrote it. Rereading a work at different times in your life will give you different insights into the text. I know plenty of authors who see patterns they put into stories that they didn't see as they were writing.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Ixtellor » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:43 pm UTC

PAstrychef wrote:So if I get symbol x in your work and you insist that you didn't put symbol x into your work-then I pulled something out of your writing that was important, but that you didn't necessarily see as important when you wrote it. Rereading a work at different times in your life will give you different insights into the text. I know plenty of authors who see patterns they put into stories that they didn't see as they were writing.


I was talking with my wife this weekend about all this symbology and her take is:

"If its in the text, its in the text". Which she said means, the authors intent is not as important as what you find in the text. If you have a theory "The Stand is really about woman's relationship with her father"(just made this up), if you can find evidence for it in the text, then you are right.
1) Authors might subconsiously include this stuff even if they don't realize it.
2) She gave me a good analogy:
You say something to me that I find offensive.
I tell you "you offended me"
You respond "I didn't mean too".
I respond, "I dont' care if you were trying to offend me, I am telling you - you offended me and thats how I feel".

This is her take on literary criticism. If you made me feel like this story was about women, then it was -- provided you have textual evidence.


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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Mon Nov 16, 2009 5:17 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:"If its in the text, its in the text".


Pretty much this exactly.

Caring overmuch about what the author meant, and privileging your speculations about the author's intent* over other meanings that you may find, just artificially limits the breadth of meaning you can pull from the text. Why do that? The existence of more meanings than the author perhaps intended doesn't in any way diminish those meanings that they may have intended. So why constrain the range of meanings you can draw by worrying about whether the one you're seeing is one the author could have meant? Why not just see it?

This is doubly true in cases where certain readings fit the text better than the author's stated intent. I know I use this example to death, but it's perfect: Ray Bradbury insists these days that Fahrenheit 451 was primarily about television, and we're all wrong for seeing messages about censorship in it. That is...kindof ludicrous. The anti-tv reading of the book is way weaker than the anti-censorship and anti-anti-intellectualism reading. Which means either bradbury is lying or confused about what he meant to do, or he just did a very poor job of writing an anti-television book and accidentally wrote a pretty good anti-censorship book. Does that matter? Does it change the fact that it is a pretty good book about censorship? Does it have to now be a pretty terrible and off-base book about television and nothing else?

Why would we deny ourselves the experience of that good and meaningful reading just because the author meant to give us a much crappier and more useless one?

*And that's all it will ever be: speculation. Even if you can speak to the author, you can't read their mind or plumb their subconscious. And if they're feeling especially puckish, they'll just lie. Good luck getting Mark Danielewski to answer your in-depth questions about House of Leaves, for example
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Ixtellor » Mon Nov 16, 2009 5:43 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Pretty much this exactly....


I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I see how we can get meaning out of books even if the author didn't intend it. Either they are naive, or driven by some sub-consious mechanism, etc but some books do have a lot of meaning for readers.

On the other hand I don't like the assignment that lots of college professor give (not sure if my wife does, will ask her tonight ... i think she does) of "read book X through a feminist lens and discover what the book is saying".
It seems to me that if your goal is to find 'feminist sub-text' your going to find it. Every word choice can be 'evidence' of whatever you looking to prove. "The author used the word _____ which is another word for womb which is blah blah"

One of my old colleges would find hidden homosexual agendas in every thing and dub all authors as 'closeted'. Every thing that could remotely be called fallic was used as evidence. I don't think this is bad, but is every protaganist and antagonist ever written really a closted homosexual?

So I suppose I don't like the idea of reading the text with the goal of finding the feminist/homosexual/puritanical/racial secret subtext, and prefer that the text be read in a vacuum and then see what comes up.


Ixtellor

P.S. I think my wife called her self a "new critic" or something like that. But all these literary critical approaches have some name.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Mon Nov 16, 2009 5:57 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:On the other hand I don't like the assignment that lots of college professor give (not sure if my wife does, will ask her tonight ... i think she does) of "read book X through a feminist lens and discover what the book is saying".
It seems to me that if your goal is to find 'feminist sub-text' your going to find it. Every word choice can be 'evidence' of whatever you looking to prove. "The author used the word _____ which is another word for womb which is blah blah"


Yes. And?

For one thing, there's a lot of very valid exploration of gender and feminist issues to be explored in most texts, whether the author meant to address them or not. It turns out that in a society as sexist as ours, you can write a lot of interesting things from a gender standpoint without actually meaning to write about gender. A feminist critic can (and will, and has) write entire essays about a book while mostly ignoring the story and just picking apart the assumptions the text makes about what it means to be female or male, or the place of the female characters.

For another? If you can find some kind of useful statement and meaning vis-a-vis feminism and gender in the text, who gives a fuck how you find it?

One of my old colleges would find hidden homosexual agendas in every thing and dub all authors as 'closeted'. Every thing that could remotely be called fallic was used as evidence. I don't think this is bad, but is every protaganist and antagonist ever written really a closted homosexual?


Two things. First, your professor here was trying to make statements about the author, which is a whole different animal than making statements about the text. Saying a book can be read to have homoerotic subtext is totally valid, and true of a lot of things. Taking that a step further to say that the author was closeted is....questionable. Requires a lot more evidence than just "his book can be interpreted this way". Because I'm sure I can interpret certain greek philosophers to be making a statement about filesharing ethics, that doesn't mean they were running uTorrent on their antikytheria machines.

Second, "really" a closeted homosexual? No, every protagonist and antagonist ever written is nonexistent. They aren't really anything, except maybe ink on paper. All that they are is how you read them. So yes, there are readings by which they are closeted homosexuals (or out homosexuals. They write books about them, too). There are also readings by which those same pro/antagonists are nothing of the sort. Both of them are valid. Neither hurts the other. Savvy?

So I suppose I don't like the idea of reading the text with the goal of finding the feminist/homosexual/puritanical/racial secret subtext, and prefer that the text be read in a vacuum and then see what comes up.


Both are ways of arriving at meaning. I see no reason to discriminate between them.

P.S. I think my wife called her self a "new critic" or something like that. But all these literary critical approaches have some name.


Yeah, your wife's approach sounds a lot like new criticism. It is one of my favorite approaches.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby cephalopod9 » Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:52 am UTC

Ixtellor wrote:So I suppose I don't like the idea of reading the text with the goal of finding the feminist/homosexual/puritanical/racial secret subtext, and prefer that the text be read in a vacuum and then see what comes up.
I really don't care for describing literary analysis as finding hidden meanings. If you're approaching a work, or a story with the idea that you're going to decode it, and find the secret message then you're probably going to end up frustrated and confused.
Furthermore, you really can't read in a vacuum, unless you have a way of removing yourself from all preconceived and emotional responses that I don't know about. Dogs for example, they're pretty gross and not very bright most of the time, but if you read a story about a dog, you'll probably think about companionship, or affection that gets associated with them in western society.
Reading a text through a lens shouldn't be about discerning secret subtext, but shifting the context through which meaning is interpreted. The idea, as I understand it, is to look at the components in the story and consider them as they relate to other concepts. A feminist reading, for example, is taking in a story an its make up, and considering how they relate to gender roles, sex differences and similar topics.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Chicostick » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:41 am UTC

See I have a problem with reading from "a feminist viewpoint" because that implies they will extract different meanings from a text. The only way that they can pull a different meaning out of it than those already there is if they inflict their own viewpoints upon it, using the text to say what THEY want to be said. Yes, you can extract feminist meanings from many texts if you examine it, but saying that you should "take this stance" like you can extract different meanings from a different stance is false. The only meanings you can add to it in that way are ones you bring into it yourself.

The same goes for the "homosexual agenda." Many books may have slight references to homosexuality, but many times people with a strong viewpoint on these subjects will read pathologically and inflict their will on the text to make it say something that they want it to say. In a text where gender is ambiguous, or feminine/masculine archetypes are used symbolically, there may be homosexual undertones. But if you take a text that doesn't really have any of these undertones and decide that it's homosexual just because that's how you personally see it, then most likely you're just inflicting your will upon it and aren't actually seeing anything but a reflection of yourself.

That professor that told you to "read it through this lens and see what the text means" is... well wrong. She's basically saying "read through this text to see what feminists would want this to mean." I feel like she could clarify by saying "examine this text for moments where a feminist agenda could be extrapolated." Trying to determine what it "means' explicitly from one viewpoint is implying a monistic sort of reading, which is a terrible way of going about things.

If I had a professor tell this to me I would definitely have to argue with her, or at least clarify what she wanted.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby cephalopod9 » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:08 am UTC

That is not at all what I intended, or understand that phrasing to mean. Reading from a feminist perspective is not trying to find feminist meaning, unless I misunderstand what you think "feminist meaning" is. What it is, is giving a frame of reference to what you are reading. That is, looking at a story or a scenario and asking what it says about, and how it relates to gender differences. This only equates to finding meaning you that wouldn't otherwise be there in the sense that you're asking question you wouldn't otherwise. None of which is the same as trying to prove things are secretly gay.
There's multiple perspectives through which you can analyze a work, and get multiple conclusions, much the way standing in a different position will give you a different understanding of a sculpture.
If you look at Little Red Ridinghood through a feminist perspective, you might point out how the female characters are both victims, and the male characters are predatory or heroic. You could also class/economic standpoint and point out that villainous wolf has no job, while the heroic woodcutter is defined by his profession, and Red's goofing off picking flowers is in contrast to a protestant work ethic. Neither interpretation changes the story or adds something that wasn't already in it, but it does contribute to the understanding of such in a broader social context.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:18 pm UTC

Quite. Feminist criticism isn't about forcing every text to espouse a particular viewpoint on feminism, it's about asking what a text has to say about feminist topics. Very different ideas.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:32 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Quite. Feminist criticism isn't about forcing every text to espouse a particular viewpoint on feminism, it's about asking what a text has to say about feminist topics. Very different ideas.

And it's especially good at showing the unconscious norms of the culture the author is writing in/for. What a spy thriller says about how women are viewed in that type of story is a very different message from the one found in a generations-long saga about family building.
Sometimes the norms expressed are rather depressing, because they're so far from where we'd like to think we are as a society. But culture is about the questions you don't ask-they questions you never even see as possible.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Chicostick » Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:06 am UTC

Belial wrote:Quite. Feminist criticism isn't about forcing every text to espouse a particular viewpoint on feminism, it's about asking what a text has to say about feminist topics. Very different ideas.


I understand that, and that's what I was trying to get at in my post. I just did it badly.

You can extract feminist topics from a text, but you can do that without putting yourself in a feminist standpoint. Putting yourself into any "standpoint" is a recipe to begin falling into the trap of monism. Saying "standing in different spots will give you different views" is a flawed concept, as if the same piece of information looks different to you solely as a result of the place you are standing, most likely you hare imposing the ideas contained in that standpoint upon the text.

I understand that there can be multiple meanings and allusions in any particular text, but taking multiple "standpoints" is the wrong way to go about finding those meanings. If you set yourself up to see something from only one particular viewpoint, you're going to end up seeing stuff that isn't there. Plus, it treats each meaning as a separate entity, when in reality meaning is a more fluid and pliable structure. No one meaning is completely independent of the other, and the idea that you can only see certain meanings if you take a particular standpoint implies that those meanings are probably only just monistic meanings forced upon the text by that standpoint.

However, taking multiple standpoints can sometimes be useful in a way, because then you can analyze it from that other angle to see what pieces of information seem to be clearly represented, and which ones are just projections.

Bah I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here. I guess the lesson is taking multiple standpoints can be beneficial, but falling into the trap of imposing upon the text is bad. The ideal interpretation is one that takes no standpoint and absorbs all the information, but since this is basically impossible... man now I've got myself all mixed up :lol:

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:59 am UTC

Chicostick, I think maybe you're advocating that we should be more naturalistic in the way we analyse texts: instead of viewing from point A, B, & C, then finding an average, we should simply be more holistic and see the text from different viewpoints at once. The thing is, there isn't really a contradiction, and that both styles will yield a similar outcome.

That is, if we take Florence + The Machine's "Kiss With A Fist," several interpretations can arise from the following lyrics:
You hit me once
I hit you back
You gave a kick
I gave a slap
You smashed a plate over my head
Then I set fire to our bed

My black eye casts no shadow
Your red eye sees nothing
Your slap don't stick
Your kicks don't hit
So we remain the same
Love sticks
Sweat drips
Break the lock if it don't fit

A kick to the teeth is good for some
A kiss with a fist is better than none


There is an obvious feminist interpretation the song advocates domestic abuse and even rape ("break the lock if it don't fit" implies meeting resistance with force); another feminist interpretation might see it all as metaphorical and understand the song to advocate an equal relationship where both partners are passionately antagonistic. Like some post-modern sculpture in the centre of a room, we can shine a torchlight on it from different angles to project different shadows onto the walls. From some points, we project sinister forms; from others, much more pleasant shapes. We may well conclude the author is playing with both meanings, with both forms, and to portray it only one way is imply a dominant meaning by omission. You seem to be saying we don't need to take standpoints: we can just look at elements of the sculpture. We can, and we do, but if we don't follow a text through in our minds from different points of view, we're essentially judging that element out of context. We exaggerate parts to make it look like a different whole so we can understand those parts within a context: this doesn't mean we're saying that exaggeration is the "true" form of the text.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby PumpkinKing » Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:59 pm UTC

Firstly I have to say that the anylitical part of reading is important because it forces us to look at deeper meaning, and all that bullshit, but the over analysis is really killing me. I mean really why is it that we need to stop every three sentences and have a twenty minute conversation about things that, as you guys said have were most likely not intended in the first place. Really why can't we just FUCKING READ A BOOK any more.

to internetmeme, do you by any chance go to Albany High, I ask because I have never heard of anyone else's class talking about the rape metaphor in Lord Of The Flies.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Oort » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:04 am UTC

PumpkinKing wrote:to internetmeme, do you by any chance go to Albany High, I ask because I have never heard of anyone else's class talking about the rape metaphor in Lord Of The Flies.


Mine did, in San Francisco. I think it's pretty common.



Below is an image from a webcomic (Cat and Girl). I think it explains pretty well how 'meaning' works although i was kind of hoping I could confirm it was accurate.
Spoiler:
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:07 am UTC

Oort wrote:
PumpkinKing wrote:to internetmeme, do you by any chance go to Albany High, I ask because I have never heard of anyone else's class talking about the rape metaphor in Lord Of The Flies.


Mine did, in San Francisco. I think it's pretty common.



Below is an image from a webcomic (Cat and Girl). I think it explains pretty well how 'meaning' works although i was kind of hoping I could confirm it was accurate.
Spoiler:
Image


In fact, my copy of lotf has analysis in the beginning that specifically talks about the whole rape thing(to be technical it talks about the pig killing being in sexual terms but its getting to the same place)
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby PumpkinKing » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:57 am UTC

oh okay my version doesn't have that, but my teacher still pulls meaning from things that don't have a deeper meaning(or i guess didn't until she assigned it one, that was a good comic)
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby folkhero » Sat Nov 21, 2009 7:59 am UTC

PumpkinKing wrote: Really why can't we just FUCKING READ A BOOK any more.

Presumably you have all already learned how to read books, and are free to read all the books you please on your own time. The purpose of close analysis is to teach you a new skill beyond simply reading a book.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Jesse » Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:01 pm UTC

But it's HAAAAAAARD, and I don't like it because it means that Aslan isn't just a lion.

Seriously, my second year of college's English Lit class contained my ex-girlfriend, Sophie. When we talked about CS Lewis and I brought up the Aslan as Christ metaphor, she cried, and then left the class because she wanted Aslan to be 'just a lion'. While I'm sure that everyone here has enough basic knowledge to be aware of the Narnia series and it's Christian allusions. I just have no idea why people who can see somethign as obvious as that then have trouble grasping that this may be present in a majority of books.

EDIT: Good example: Twilight. I'm almost 100% certain that Meyer was writing a self-insertion romantic fantasy, yet the best crit I've read on the books involve looking at the feminist issues prevalent of the male as dominating and violent, while the woman defines herself and only makes herself important in the movie by being fought over by other men.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:16 am UTC

PumpkinKing wrote:oh okay my version doesn't have that, but my teacher still pulls meaning from things that don't have a deeper meaning(or i guess didn't until she assigned it one, that was a good comic)


Just about everything in the lotf has a deeper meaning; ergo, you can pull a deeper meaning out of anything. Especially with something like lotf, everything is intended to be symbolic. Ask about any detail, I'm sure I can give a reasonable explanation of its symbolism.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:34 am UTC

Jesse wrote:EDIT: Good example: Twilight. I'm almost 100% certain that Meyer was writing a self-insertion romantic fantasy

I'm not sure that's a bad thing: I think all the Bond novels were self-insertion romantic fantasy, and one of my favourite novels, Greene's The Quiet American, isn't far off it either. And the fact it's self-insertion probably goes some way to explain why it's so popular: Meyer nailed down her own fantasies, which happened to resonate with a lot of people (not just 14-year-old girls), and we might say that's an author being relevant where it matters.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Jesse » Mon Nov 23, 2009 3:28 am UTC

I don't remember placing a value judgement in my post on the quality of her writing.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:07 am UTC

Sorry, I may have read your post to imply that it's self-insertion but that critics have failed to pick up on it.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Jesse » Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:39 pm UTC

Quite the opposite. That the self-insertion is a surface thing, but that there's much more to be said by looking past that.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Philosophaster » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:50 pm UTC

PumpkinKing wrote:Firstly I have to say that the anylitical part of reading is important because it forces us to look at deeper meaning, and all that bullshit, but the over analysis is really killing me. I mean really why is it that we need to stop every three sentences and have a twenty minute conversation about things that, as you guys said have were most likely not intended in the first place. Really why can't we just FUCKING READ A BOOK any more.

So if you had control of the curriculum and the allocation of class time, how would you change things?

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Chicostick » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:35 am UTC

Philosophaster wrote:
PumpkinKing wrote:Firstly I have to say that the anylitical part of reading is important because it forces us to look at deeper meaning, and all that bullshit, but the over analysis is really killing me. I mean really why is it that we need to stop every three sentences and have a twenty minute conversation about things that, as you guys said have were most likely not intended in the first place. Really why can't we just FUCKING READ A BOOK any more.

So if you had control of the curriculum and the allocation of class time, how would you change things?


I have to agree with PumpkinKing. As much as I like analyzing books and the like (it's the reason I'm an English major), some teachers seem to go about it the wrong way. Stopping at individual parts frequently seems to break up the book into chunks if teachers are overzealous in it.

My personal favorite technique is to read large swaths of a book at a time, then spend a class period discussing what certain events could "mean." Such as "_____ happened, but could this also be alluding to ______?" The first time talking should be spent on general impressions I feel. Then, after the entire book is completed, going back over interesting bits and developing meaning(s) from it is much easier and less disruptive. Many times in classes that have done the page by page stuff, I end up ignoring the conversations and reading ahead, because I'm more interested in the story at that point. Yes, I could analyze what a character is representing, but at the moment I'd much rather figure out whether he/she survived that plane crash.

Yes, hermeneutic analysis is incredibly important, but lets not forget what the purpose of a book is for. Books are made for READING. Even ones written with the authorial intention of making a statement about something should first be simply read in my opinion. The analysis is just as important, but focusing on it to soon makes simply reading something nearly impossible. I feel like a casual first reading helps get a better grasp on the text as a whole, then focusing downwards to smaller chunks can get at the more analytical stages.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Philosophaster » Sun Nov 29, 2009 5:06 pm UTC

Those sound like good ideas to me.

I am considering trying to teach English at the high school level, so I want to know what people felt was lacking in their school experience, and what they enjoyed. Obviously some people will never like English simply because they are uninterested in reading or analyzing literature, but I want to try and at least not bore those who do have an interest.

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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Belial » Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:45 pm UTC

Yeah, I think the ideal situation is to be able to read the book entirely through, and then go back over it and analyze. I think a lot of teachers in highschool especially think they don't have time to do that. Or that their kids won't read the book until it's necessary to know what they're talking about in class.

Of course, nothing's stopping you, the student, from reading the entire book as soon as it's assigned, and then using the class-reading-pace and discussion as your after-analysis.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Nov 30, 2009 3:02 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Yeah, I think the ideal situation is to be able to read the book entirely through, and then go back over it and analyze. I think a lot of teachers in highschool especially think they don't have time to do that. Or that their kids won't read the book until it's necessary to know what they're talking about in class.

It's called scaffolding, and essentially it's about making sure some of the kids working at a lower operational stage can get something out of the text. Generally, you can't start to think about things abstractly until you're about 12. You might have an affinity with maths at that age, but not be able to get how a newsreader is bending the truth until you're 16, or 22, or 46. In a high school English class, you'll generally get several students still at the concrete operational stage, and they'll need constant step-by-step help to deconstruct a text in any meaningful fashion.

To give you an example, it took about ten minutes for a class of year 8s to get the subtext of this Perry Bible Fellowship comic; if took over twenty minutes, and lots of hints, for them to get that the poem "The Child Who Walks Backwards" is about child abuse, rather than about a boy who is blind or silly or stupid. Their simply unable to make the connexions we need to make in an analysis.
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Re: Over-analysing books and School

Postby mmmcannibalism » Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:17 am UTC

Philosophaster wrote:Those sound like good ideas to me.

I am considering trying to teach English at the high school level, so I want to know what people felt was lacking in their school experience, and what they enjoyed. Obviously some people will never like English simply because they are uninterested in reading or analyzing literature, but I want to try and at least not bore those who do have an interest.


As a fleeting thought, Shakespeare will be much less hated by anyone who dislikes english if you point out a few of the innuendos. The added benefit is once you start explaining things kids will start trying to find more(details of course, not innuendos :roll: )
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