31 may. 2006

Madrid. Here I come. I haven't been for two years.


I'm wondering how a narrative can bear a meaning. A single meaning. For example, a short story of Raymond Carver that I read many years ago. A group of men, hunters or fishers, find the body of a woman in the woods. They decide that since she's already dead they might as well go ahead with their trip, and they only report the body when they get back. The wife of one of the men's gains some insight into her spouse's character. Anyway, it is hard for me to say that what I care most about here is what Carver might have *meant* by this story. The meaning of this story doesn't belong to him as author in any meaningful sense. He is one interpreter of a story which took shape in his writerly imagination. The story seems so much bigger than any one thing that someone might want to *communicate* by recounting the story.

If such an event really happened and I heard about it, the person I heard it from would not be the owner of the meaning of the narrative. Or if I watched a film of these events, filmed by Robert Altman say, I wouldn't say that film-maker, script-writer, or actors owned the meanings of these narrative happenings. Did Homer originate all the meanings in The Iliad? Can you trace back all the meanings to a single person? Maybe he's trying to make sense of previous events retold to him. There is no original source of meaning anywhere to be found.

I know this is literary theory 101 and might be too basic. I just find doing such thought experiments to be useful in clarifying the issues in a kind of intuitive way. My next obvious target will be the idea of communication. I will demonstrate that literature is not primarily a mode of "communicating" messages to the reader.

1 comentario:

Joseph Duemer dijo...

There is some weird inverse of the fallacy of communication in the political world, when a government seeks to "send a message" to another country by, say, bombing the hell out of it. Or acts of terror as a kind of one-dimensional poem: but what is the message, finally?