(urth) Wolfe being clear on 5HoC

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Sat Sep 9 23:25:08 PDT 2006

On 9/9/06, b sharp <bsharporflat at hotmail.com> wrote:
> I can't say I strongly disagree with what Dan'l and Tony recently
> posted but for the sake of argument I'll address a couple things
> (at the risk of straying too far from Wolfe, sorry Ranjit!;-) )

I hope Ranjit (and others) will bear with this discussion -- the
subject of "how to interpret" is certainly germaine to the task
of interpreting.

> This recognizes that an author may include unintended meanings
> in writing text but ignores that the meaning must be found by a
> reader.

Ummm, not so much. I did in fact speak of the importance of
the encounter of the reader with the text. I'm writing quickly and
informally; in point of fact, if I wanted to talk about "meaning"
formally, I could _only_ talk about it in terms of what the reader
discovers (or creates by interacting with the text), _not_ what
the writer "intended." Formally, I find the writer's intentions to
be of almost no relevance to the generation of meaning when a
reader decodes a text; the emphasis on the writers' intentions
is a holdover from a Biblical hermeneutics based on the bad
theological idea of "divine dictation," the idea that the Bible was
actually dictated word-for-word by the Holy Spirit.

But meaning is not so much "found" by the reader as _made_
by the reader interacting with the text. Meaning (a meaning, not
"the" meaning) is created anew in the mind of each reader, by
the reader's process of interpreting. The text guides the process,
but the energy is provided by the reader: much as the tracks
guides the train but the engine provides the motive energy.

To clarify: by "text" I mean not only the written word but any
object subjected to interpretation. As an interesting gedanken-
experiment, suppose you read a story and are moved by it,
find it filled with fascinating ideas, interesting characters, and
exciting action. No author's name is attached to the text. You
do a bit of research, because you'd like to know more, possibly
read more by the same writer.

What does it mean to you if you find out that the text was...

...written by an established writer?
...written by a condemned war criminal?
...written by a schizophrenic whose contact with consensus
   reality approaches nil?
...written by a chimpanzee banging keys at random?
...written by a computer program, which analyzed other texts
   syntactically and structurally, but not semantically, and
   produced a new text based on that analysis?
...written by a computer program that claims to have achieved
   independent sentience?
...found carved in a rock that had been buried a million years
   or more?

To me, as far as interpreting the text, the answer to any or all
of these questions is (or should be): _next to nothing_.

In reality, it isn't. In reality, I know that some interpretations of
a Lupine text are more valid than others because I know
(or think I do) something of Wolfe's actual beliefs and aesthetics.
But his intentions about a particular text? No, not really; they
are, at best, a chimera.

Incidentally, I love "Waiting for Godot," but I think it's rarely
performed well or with understanding. Done right, it's an
uproariously _funny_ play.

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes, writer, trainer, bon vivant
I've got a piece of braaaaain lodge in me heeead!!!

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