Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meaning Without Authorial Intention

"Only now, when positing an author seems impossible, do you genuinely imagine the marks as authorless. But to deprive them of an author is to convert them into accidental likenesses of language. They are not, after all, an example of intentionless meaning; as soon as they become intentionless they become meaningless as well." (Knapp and Michaels, p. 728)

Knapp, Stephen, and Walter B. Michaels. "Against Theory." Critical Inquiry. Vol. 8. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1982. 723-42. Print. Critical Inquiry.

During the reading, the authors talk about writing that appears in the sand after a wave washes up onto the shore of a beach. However, I disagree with the argument that, if the writing was in fact a random series of marks that resemble language, it becomes meaningless. Though there may be no deeper meaning due to the lack of an author, which creates a lack of authorial intention, the marks do not become meaningless. Rather, a meaning can be taken from the marks because they are still words. If people found marks that resembled words, they would most likely derive some sort of meaning from the marks, whether the meaning is religious to them or, as in the case of the shore poem, the marks create what appears to be a deep, coherent thought. Just because there was no one to create the marks does not mean that the marks do not count as language. As it is stated later in the reading, "language consists of inherently meaningless sounds to which one adds meanings-in other words, that the relation between the signifier and signified is arbitrary" (734). If this argument can be made for the spoken word, can the same argument not be made from the written? Because the markings resemble letters that people write, meanings can still be attached to the written words. Due to the fact that they were not written by anyone, the argument can still be made that there is no concrete meaning behind the words. However, each person that sees the markings can attach a meaning to them in the same way that they can attach their own meaning to other readings that they have done.

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