30 may 2006

Ok, we've already established that a literary work cannot have "a" meaning in any meaningful sense. Everything in it is meaningful, but it doesn't add up to any proposition equivalent to "the" meaning.

Now we can establish that what meaning is there, is not the result of some naively conceived authorial *intention.*

Once again, there is a paradox, in that every part of the text is the result of intentional acts. Maybe even accidents and mistakes are intentional in the weaker sense.

Suppose we take Jack Spicer's After Lorca. It is the result of many decisions: to write the book in the first place, to translate dese and not dose poems by Lorca, put them in the order that they are in, write another series of poems not by Lorca and intersperse them here and there, along with some letters by Lorca. Dedicate each poem to a separate individual.

Then there is the *intentional meaning* of each of the poems. The intentional meaning of a particular (intentional?) mistranslation, or the intentional meaning of an entire translation strategy.

Put these things together, you might get *what Spicer intended to do.* But this seems intuitively wrong. What he intended, perhaps, was a fairly open structure that had a variable sense of purposefulness. That is, some things seem more purposeful than others. Some texts might have been "dictated" to him, not originating with him as the speaking subject.

If I dream a line of poetry and then decide to put it in a poem, there are two senses of intention that might be different. The line still originates in my consciousness, but it might not have an intended meaning at all. I might not even know what it really means. On the other hand, you can safely say that it is my intention to put it in a poem and publish it. Any poet knows he or she is not the creator of poetry, but a medium through which poetry operates.

In short, the process of creating any work of art is too complex, involving too many levels of intentionalilty and the surrender of intentionality, for it to be meaningful to talk about the intention of a work as a single entity.

2 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

It seems as though you are *intending* to refute an Augustinian sense of transmission of meaning a la teleporting an object, such as Witt. debunks in the Philosophical Investigations.

Consider though the Brechtian sense of political agency, in which the author *intends* to intervene in a dynamic. The meaning could be the intention to polarize or diffuse the listener's consideration of his/her place in a moment, politically.

That seems to me not too many levels to speak about meaningfully. Whether Frank O'Hara's rejoinder to Arnold Weinstein -- that's the problem, you were sending a message -- whether this Sam Fullerish position trumps the political possibilities for art *in general* I will politely decline to speculate.

Jonathan dijo...

I have less problem with the idea of intention as the intention to undertake a particular aesthetic project. My idea was to combat the idea of *intended meaning.* "What Brecht meant to say in the Caucasian Chalk Circle was..."

What he intended to DO is more interesting, but that also has levels--levels of meaning and intentionality. A lot of statements end up being very vague even here. Spicer intended for the reader to consider various issues of translation, poetic voice, dictation. He wanted those issues put into play in interesting ways, some of which he couldn't foresee.