Re: Ender's Game - Chapters 13 through 15
riverc0il: This often happens with great works of fiction. For example, The Lord of the Rings, a book in which the author, Tolkien, specifically wrote in a preface/forward to the book that despite what people think, the book is only a story of fiction and has no larger meanings.
That Tolkien did not intend it to have larger meaning is not proof that it has no larger meaning. Tolkien's work is a particularly lucid example. He intentionally drew from a very large number of traditional and classical works, and it's almost unimaginable that some of the themes of those works failed to carry over.
To understand what I'm getting at, you have to stop looking at literary meaning as a kind of cypher or secret code. Writing a meaningless work of fiction is a bit like writing a meaningless sentence. If it were truly meaningless, it would be nonsense and no one would pay much attention to it.
That's not to say that all literary works are on equal footing, and some are certainly more compelling than others.
Greg Neuman: But any meaning - moral or otherwise - that survives writing, revision, editing, and publishing is meant to be there.
I can point to at least a dozen instances in which reputable, published authors have betrayed their own political or philosophical biases when their stories were meant to be nothing more than stories. And there have been plenty of writers who have gone on record as saying that their novels contain meaning that they haven't meant to put there. Even the simplest of stories yield up material that the author didn't intend to put there. That is, among other things, just the nature of language, which survives in large part because its ambiguity allows it to communicate across lines of denotation.The only valid meaning any work of art can have is the one that its creator puts there.
Then for the vast majority of works of art, we can have no idea
what its valid meaning is. We have no statement from Sophocles saying what the intent of his plays may have been. Does it therefore valid that they're of no use to us?
Meaning is something that arises in the relationship between the work and the reader. The author produces the work, but he has ultimately no control over his audience, and therefore may determine only half of the relationship.But regardless of the nature of the work, the person reading or watching it does not actually add anything to it; the best they can hope for is to be astute enough to grasp 100% of the artist's meaning.
I think you may have let your ideals concerning your profession blind you to the reality of the situation. The reader brings their own experiences, biases, intelligence, feeling and cultural associations to the table, and those dictate, for better or for worse, at least half of the relationship, and therefore the meaning, which arises in the appreciation of a work of art. And most working artists realize this, whether they like it or not, when they consider what sort of audience they're working to.The problem is that they're seeing intent that doesn't really exist.
If they didn't see authorial intent as the end-all be-all of artistic meaning, they'd likely not bother making assumptions about the author's intent.
If authorial intent is the only measure of a work's meaning, then why don't more artists provide prefaces or running commentaries on what they intended? It would sure help us poor, unnecessary readers.
Blue Lily: I don't believe there are valid and invalid meanings to art.
I'd say that there are -- Greg's example with Michaleangelo's David illustrates the point -- but that the key to distinguishing a valid interpretation from an invalid interpretation is whether or not there is a logical consistency between the work and the interpretation. Any time an interpretation makes its argument by reading into a work events or facts that are not referenced within the work itself, you can count that interpretation as an allegory or commentary making use of the work, rather than as an ellucidation of a valid meaning within the work.
Greg Neuman: Now, that said, an artist can certainly create a work that is purposefully left open to some interpretation.... But 1) that is not the case with Ender's Game, and 2) even when art is open to interpretation, the meaning is still put there by the artist.
Unless he's been more explicit on the matter, Card's having stated his intent does not mean that he isn't happy to see other people interpreting Ender's Game according to their own experience of the work.