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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One Cannot Theorize about a Text, But How Do I Understand Something that Isn't Clear?

I have to be quite honest in saying that I am aware of what Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Micaels were arguing but I do not know how they were supporting their argument. I just couldn't understand it. Some of that may have be a result of sleep deprivation in preparation for finals, but most of their argument didn't seem to stand up. From what I could understand, they argued that even if someone says something different from what they had originally intended, they still intended to do so. But, my problem with saying that this cancels the need for theory is that one must theorize what exactly those meanings are. Through a study of psycho- and sociolinguistics, I learned that words do not have a specific meaning that is true in all cases. Under such circumstances one must determine what the intentions of the speaker are for why and how he used such a word. People use sarcasm in speech and it feels necessary to rationalize whether or not someone is using that or not and why in order to form a response. I have also been taught that the best texts are the ones that are more ambiguous in meaning. George Bernard Shaw is a great example because he never entirely resolves a problem nor does he ever create characters that are entirely good or entirely bad. Each character has some major flaws and redemptive qualities. We recently discussed an example of difference in intention in class because Wabash had a showing of The Tempest which was much more comedic than the darker show it had originally been. This was done to appeal to today's audience because they no longer understand Shakespearian language. However, the play can be read multiple ways, and the way that it is read drastically effects character portrayals and thus what the author is trying to imply about such characters. Knapp and Michaels seem to say that because intended meaning and author's intention are identical, that there can really only be one explanation which is what the author has presented for us as though it should be obvious from the text. But, I have yet to read a text that all people can agree on even with things like the Bible that are only "supposed" to be interpreted in one way.

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