Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Authors and Readers and Critics... Oh my!

I was reading Literary Theory today while riding a stationary bike, but I still managed to jaggedly highlight this section:

"[A literary work] is a piece of language which has been detached from any specific 'living' relationship and thus subject to the 'reinscriptions' and reinterpretations of many different readers. The work itself cannot 'foresee' its own future history of interpretations, cannot control and delimit these readings as we can do, or try to do, in face-to-face conversation. Its 'anonymity' is part of its very structure, not just an unfortunate accident which befalls it; and in this sense to be an 'author'- the 'origin' of one's own meanings, with 'authority' over them- is a myth." -Literary Theory, p. 104

I feel that this is a good summary of how literature should be approached by everyone involved with it- the authors, readers, and critics. An author should never think that his or her work will always be understood how he or she wants it to be, or be offended when it isn't. Readers have every right to interpret a work however they want. This means that efforts to make people think a certain way about a work of art are pretty futile, and this is what I feel critics try to do. I know some other people have already stated that literary criticism is necessary but that a reader should form his or her own opinions before learning of those of the critic. I agree with this completely, but I also want to add that, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn what critics have to say anyway. I don't really want to have anything to do with someone who thinks they are so important that I should hold his or her opinion in high esteem. 

But I will defend the poor critic a little, because if readers have the right to interpret a work however they want, that really makes them critics. All three roles- author, reader, and critic- have the possibility of becoming completely intertwined. I disagree with Frye's idea that an artist can't be a good critic. There is a cyclical relationship between these three things: a reader reads something, then he critiques it, becoming a critic, then writes about it, becoming an author, and then his criticism is read by another reader, who could go on and do the same thing. I guess the bottom line is that literature and art isn't like math; 2+2=4, and that is the only way it can be done, but there is no right or wrong way to approach literature and art.

No comments:

Post a Comment