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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
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From: ex_synecdoch550 Date: September 22nd, 2004 11:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Heh when people start challening an interpretation of a text because "The author didn't mean to do all that!" I always end up shouting "THE AUTHOR IS DEAD" and then run off.

Just kidding. Sort of. :)

But seriously, though I have not read most of the theorists that you are talking about, I think it is worth pointing out to students who have this issue the idea that what the author intended might not matter so much-- or, at least, it is just as significant to realize that the surrounding environment of the creation of art will influence people in ways that they cannot consciously put into to the text, but do anyway. I'm showing my theoretical strings here, but as Marx wrote (and Greenblatt poignantly quotes):

"Human beings make their own history, yet they do not make it of their own free will, but under directly encountered, given circumstances, which have been handed down to them. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living."

Clearly it isn't just HISTORY (as in the past) that comes into play, but the milieu of the current situation in which the text is produced.

I don't know how applicable this idea is to the rest of your train of thought, but I remember being encountered with this question and when I offered this explanation, and the students seemed to accept it. The other advantage of it is that you can use very concrete examples to illustrate it. For example, television: can we separate television from the infrastructure of television, and all of the considerations that go into (especially American broadcast or major network) television? The social situation may be more abstract and less apparent to the author, but it serves, I think, to illustrate how many things affect the texts we look at that we may take for granted and do not think about.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 30th, 2004 06:04 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Since I'm catching up on a few days of poor commenting on my part, I thought I'd reply to this one too.

I love that quote from the 18th Brumaire!

I guess for the purposes of this particular theoretical inquiry, the constrained free will imagined by Marx would be a nice supplement -- or complement? -- to what I'm trying to get at, however fitfully. Maybe you could argue that "big" free will underpins the conception of intention that I'm calling into question. The pieces don't match up perfectly, but the idea is intriguing.

Thanks for commenting and for your insight!
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