Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Opinion, Rant, Same Thing: Authorial Intent

This subject has been getting on my nerves a lot lately, what with all of the literature that I'm currently reading for my Language Arts course. That subject, of course, is authorial intent, especially when it comes to such layered novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Of Mice and Men. I've finally had enough with the complains of my classmates. It's time to vent.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'll make it short and sweet.

Authorial intent does not matter.

I know this is a hard concept to grasp. Trust me, it took me a long time to come to terms with, especially as a writer. However, the fact of the matter is that once an author publishes a book, it is no longer their book anymore: it is the reader's book. Therefore, it is what the reader takes out of the novel that matters, not what the author intended for the reader to take out of the novel.

We have this tendency to think, especially in a school setting, that whatever the writer thought while writing is the "right" perspective and is therefore the most important. This is not true. While analyzing a text it's a good question ask ("What do you think the author meant by that?"), but it's not the only question. Writing essays and discussing literature isn't about the author's opinion, it's about having an opinion and using text to support it, whether that was the original intent or not.

You have power in the reader-writer relationship. You can take away whatever you want from a story. That's your liberty as a reader. Use it. Exercise it.

What do you think? Ever had a frustrating experience with authorial intent? Continue the discussion in the comments!

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