As a preface to my response to our reading, it must be said that I, as a fellow reader and an author, value highly the interpretive power of both roles in literature and study thereof. After all, one of my most favorite philosophers of the Western Hemisphere, Soren Kierkegaard wrote famously, “Truth is subjectivity.” As you will note from my response, the history and context behind that quote is what allows most audiences to conclude that Kierkegaard was NOT, in fact, giving everyone a moral license to live by whatever creed or delusion they felt suited to them.
As our book notes succinctly, “If we’re not careful, the absolute control of the author can give way very quickly to the absolute control of the reader, who then simply usurps the author’s privileged role in the game of meaning.”
Cross-examination of the utility of what is presented as truth in products of authorship, “is the cornerstone of social theory”. Context matters. For example, why is Donald Trump’s validity seems to rarely affect his recent candidacy? Are all his controversial, loud, bigoted, and sometimes meandering opinions the result of careful consideration and questioning? It is probably safe to say this is unlikely. Much of his rhetoric lacks context, which our Theory Toolbox focuses on. “All meaning is contextual because languages are social rather than natural phenomena.”
So, you might wonder at the title then, seeing as I agree with our text on how we construct interpretation and the way we read.
The first charge is answered by the book itself, really. Meaningful interpretation of language is based on plausibility and context – so to presume that an author’s opinion on their own work has no value would be a very extreme position, and largely depends on what that author thinks in context of the work itself.
What makes opinions like Trump’s wrong? Or any other politician’s ideology? Do their ideologies carry any substance or meaning?
One could write many papers on those very question. And these are a few of my thoughts as we dive deep into the theoretical.
Yes, the author isn’t dead; the author is just one context amongst others, which is still something of a demotion. I don’t think Trump’s remarks lack context: indeed, folks who can’t understand why Trump is gaining such traction are blind to the contexts–an atmosphere of suspicion, xenophobia, fear, anger, etc.–that enable him. It’s more productive to ask “why are people attending to this crazy individual’s rantings” rather than simply saying “that person is crazy.” The latter is merely dismissive; the former gets to the root of things. Cool video! Also use links as relevant…