25 may. 2006

It's pretty obvious to me that a poem can't have a "meaning." A sentence can have a meaning, that is, an equivalent sentence that we might agree means pretty much the same thing. Two sentences have two meanings. The meaning of this sentence followed by that sentence is not the meaning of either sentence, or both put together, but something else: an interpretation of why that sentence follows the other one. The meaning of a Faulkner novel is not the meaning of all of its sentences put together, or the sum total of all the meanings of the words. It is pretty improbable that all these sentences, put together, would add up to a single "signified," a concept that could be summed up in a "meaningful" way. All the elements are meaningful, but there is no one "meaning." Nobody could even hold so much information in his or her head. Imagine Faulkner recites his novel from beginning to end and someone asks, what did you mean by that? A single assertion like, "we are all doing to die and life is tragic" would not be a plausible "meaning" for an entire novel. It just seems off scale. A paraphrase of a novel is another novel, just like the meaning of a sentence would be another sentence. But no two novels mean the same thing. What did you mean by Light in August? Oh, what I meant was, As I Lay Dying.