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From: "Chris" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Get a bigger hamme
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 17:57:21 +0000

There is also the general feeling going into it (not to say that it is the 
sole reason behind what you term "The New Criticism") that the work should 
stand on its own; the roots of what is to be interpreted from the text 
should be *in* the text (or, I suppose, body of texts) and if the author has 
anything further to say to explain what he meant, he should have somehow put 
that in the text in the first place.

There are plenty of arguments that can be made against this, and I won't 
dispute them. However, I suspect it's a sentiment that Wolfe himself shares. 
I've always gotten the feeling that he's been reluctant to answer these 
questions about his work because he wants them to stand on their own, and 
that he's made uncomfortable by the prospect of adding something that will 
alter or "fix" the reader's interpretation. This also helps account, I 
think, for how upset he gets about even the smallest unintentional error 
that he might make in the text (I seem to recall him talking about one in 
the end of the Long Sun series, in the afterword or thereabouts...) - 
perhaps he doesn't feel that his word, after the fact, is in itself a 
completely adequate fix.

Tangentially, I tend to read what an author has to say about his work 
anyway. With Wolfe I find it rewarding. The worst experience I had with it, 
though, was reading what Faulkner had to say about "The Sound and the Fury" 
and finding out that some of the things I found most masterful were in fact 
completely incidental, and that if he'd had his full way with the story (the 
printer imposed certain limitations on him) I would have been keenly 
disappointed with the result. Sometimes, you just don't want to know what 
the author really meant.

>Assuming that "original intent" is a thing that can be known in the first 
>place--even if the author's still alive, s/he may not tell the truth, or 
>may have forgotten, might think it unimportant, etc.
>The New Criticism is an established literary fact, and kicking against it 
>will prove to be more trouble than it's worth.  Not to say that authorial 
>intent is unimportant, but it's not the Grail:  nobody knows all the 
>reasons why they do things (or psychotherapy wouldn't be necessary).  
>There's a lot in any author's work that they might not have consciously put 
>there; why not take the time to tease it out?
>Please note that the New Crit is NOT a free pass to spin isogeses about 
>Severian as a drag queen, Herbert Hoover in disguise, or a Fungi from 
>The fault is great in man or woman
>Who steals a goose from off a common;
>But what can plead that man's excuse
>Who steals a common from a goose?
>	The Tickler Magazine, 1 Feb. 1821

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