Friday, April 14, 2006

Studying English Literature

Via Boots & Sabers, a student in a college English class analyzes an exchange between members of his class and an acclaimed author:
The question went something like this:
The book is very profound, with many details hidden deep within, did you fully understand the relationship of the characters when you wrote it? Do you now?
Author’s response:
When I started, I really didn’t know much about the characters. Slowly, they revealed themselves to me. After talking with many readers, I now know more about them, but I don’t know if I fully understand them yet.
So, in review, the acclaimed author had characters reveal themselves to her. She didn’t create them, they revealed themselves. (Sounds a little schizo to me.) She only got to really understand the very characters she wrote after the book was published and she talked to readers.

Does anyone else find this odd at all? She didn’t invent all of these “genius” characters on purpose, the way others interpreted the book made it so. The person who wrote this book was learning about it from other people who took no part in its creation.

And of course, we are supposed to be analyzing the text to discern what the author is trying to hint at with subtle details. It’s always been clear to me, that analyzing texts to figure out what the author meant, is nothing more than pulling something out of your butt, and English not a real discipline.
Out of deference to the sensibilities of our colleagues in the English Department, we will have no comment on this.

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