Sunday, May 1, 2011

Meaning in Writing

“The method then consists in adding speech acts to language; speech acts bring with them the particular intentions that allow interpreters to clear up the ambiguities intrinsic to language as such. But this separation of language and speech acts need not be used to establish an interpretive method; it can in fact be used to do just the opposite. For a theorist like Paul de Man, the priority of language to speech acts suggests that all attempts to arrive at determinate meanings by adding intentions amount to violation of the genuine condition of language…theory in its negative or antimethodological mode tries to preserve what it takes to be the purity of language from the distortion of speech acts” (Knapp and Michaels 733).

"Against Theory" by Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels

In the above quote, Knapp and Michaels suggest theory is a violation of language. Knapp and Michaels’ argument appears to be nihilistic in that they refute the ideas of theory in terms of how authors try to (or try not to) give a meaning behind their work. I agree that when consciously writing, theory can violate “genuine language,” but the existence of theory makes writing an art through objectivity; theory is a mean in which language and writing in general can be organized and evaluated. It can be argued through many lenses that theory is the essence of writing. Without a purpose, an author’s work has no meaning because a message is not being shared. I would be more interested in hearing Knapp and Michael’s opinion on what the essence of writing actually is. It is up to the author to decide whether it is more important to value language over meaning or vice versa. While theory can be a hindrance to writing and language, it is a way in which we can evaluate a text, therefore assigning value to a text according to how it demonstrates or does not demonstrate a particular theory.

1 comment:

  1. You state that "the existence of theory makes writing an art through objectivity". I cannot agree here man. Think about it, is it really possible to remain 100% truly objective when you write something? It isn't possible to ever bring an objective stance to something, there is always a level of bias brought in. This is part of the point I think Knapp and Michaels are trying to make, that theory tries to do something with the text that the author doesn't want, it's unnecessary. The text is simply an extension of what the author thinks, there isn't any special innate statement the author is unintentionally making. The text means what the author wants it to, right?