IMHO really meaning In my NOT SO humble opinion ***
The main flaw in the way HS English classes approach lit crit lies not in the nature of textual analysis, but in the way schools measure mastery of subjective topics. If tests & grade metrics choose A Right Answer ™, interpretative reading dies.
The question of metaphor & theme has no one answer in the real world. What I’m saying is, IMHO the following meme sucks.
This unfortunately now-classic joke Venn diagram about English teachers & blue curtains has only two circles. Reality has a hundred. A thousand. There are as many intersecting circles as there are people with different interpretations.
I found this gem on tumblr and loved it so much I’m putting it here so I will never lose it. The link in the meme-takedown image takes you to the full analysis on setonhill.edu.
I found similar takedown on tumblr, although I can’t find the original to link to (I AM SO SORRY) from user kendallroy:
idk who needs to hear this but when your english teacher asks you to explain why an author chose to use a specific metaphor or literary device, it’s not because you won’t be able to function in real-world society without the essential knowledge of gatsby’s green light or whatever, it’s because that process develops your abilities to parse a text for meaning and fill in gaps in information by yourself, and if you’re wondering what happens when you DON’T develop an adult level of reading comprehension, look no further than the dizzying array of examples right here on tumblr dot com.
this post went from 600 to 2400 notes in the time it took me to write 3 emails. i’m already terrified for what’s going to happen in there
k but also, as an addendum, the reason we study literary analysis is because everything an author writes has meaning, whether it was intentional or not, and their biases and agendas are often reflected in their choice of language and literary devices and so forth! and that ties directly into being able to identify, for example, the racist and antisemitic dogwhistles often employed by the right wing, or the subconscious word choices that can unintentionally illustrate someone’s bias or blind spot. LANGUAGE HAS WEIGHT AND MEANING!
the way we communicate is a reflection of our inner selves, and that’s true regardless of whether it’s a short story or a novel or a blog post or a tweet. instead of taking a piece of writing at face value and stopping there, assuming that there is no deeper meaning or thought behind the words on the page, ask yourself these two questions instead:
- what is the author trying to say?
- what does the author maybe not realize they’re saying?
because the most interesting reading of any piece of literature, imho, usually occupies the space in between those questions.
IMHO, the author referenced in the original blue curtain meme may have just written blue curtains to match the wallpaper, but that doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s interpretation of a deeper meaning. The whole point of analysing writing is to discuss, share ideas and look at things from other perspectives. NOT TO FIND A RIGHT ANSWER AND FORCE EVERYONE TO ACCEPT IT.
***TLDR: this post is really a very longwinded way of reminding myself that people who see VERY different things in my writing than what I think I put into it are fully, entirely justified in their interpretations.
And I am fully, entirely justified in disagreeing with them, too. (I love posting rants on holiday weekends when I know no one’s really reading blogs.)
And now for a book some people think is great and others think has characters who are too flawed & “aren’t given enough agency at the start,” as if a) agency is a gift & not a hard-fought right and b) that wasn’t a real problem women have to solve in the real world too. Harumph. Anyway.
The Sharp Edge of Yesterday
A mother on the run from her criminal past can’t escape the dangerous superpower developing inside her own body.
Grace Reed just wants to be left alone with her daughters, her small business and her quiet suburban life.
Fate has something bigger planned for all of them.
A contemporary fantasy novel about coming of age in middle age, The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is in bookstores & libraries now.
Amazon (ebook & print)