Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Bold Statment...To Say the Least

"The fact that what a text means is what its author intends is clearly stated by E.D. Hirsch when he writes that the meaning of a text "is, and can be, nothing other than the author's meaning" and "is determined once and for all by the character of the speaker's intention." (725)

Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8, No. 4, (Summer, 1982), pp. 723-742

What the text means is what the author intends is a very broad statement in my opinion, and one that I grappled with all the way through this reading. In some sense, I agree, what the author intends for a text to mean is in fact what it means. However, that does not make it the ONLY meaning. It just makes it the author's meaning. Therefore, I disagree with what Hirsch notes when he says, "is, and can be, nothing other than the author's meaning." If this were the case then why did I just spend an entire semester learning numerous different ways to analyze a text that only has one meaning, the one the author intends. I cannot agree that there is only one way to read a text based on a couple of reasons. The first being my own personal experiences with writing. Although I have by no means had something published, I have spent significant time writing with the intention being to convey my intended meaning. However, unfortunate as it is, many times the professor's who often read my works disagreed with my intended meaning and reflected that in my grade. Not only has this happened with professors, but often with peers as well. When having a peer look over my works, they often take my intended message differently than I intended it to be taken. These personal experiences within writing on my own strongly contradict this statement made by Hirsch.

Another major disagreement I have with Hirsch's statement is that their would not be book clubs, Critical Analysis classes and multiple Critical Theories if the authors intended meaning was the only meaning. After all, this whole semester we have spent time looking at ways to analyze one poem, "Leda and the Swan," in order to find multiple meanings that it portrays. Same goes for book clubs that sit and discuss what a particular book meant to them. Each member enlightening the rest of the group on their personal interpretation of the meaning, NOT the authors ONLY meaning, that would make for a pretty redundant and boring discussion. Lastly this semester's Eng 397 class would be a very brief and dull one as well. Our discussions would have never left the so called "box" of the authors meaning, and we would have never learned to find multiple ways in which literature and pop culture speak to their audiences. This excerpt and entire article made some broad assumptions that I found very difficult to swallow.

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