Re: franny and zooey [authorial intent, etc.]

From: Jim Rovira <>
Date: Tue Jan 14 2003 - 21:14:24 EST

Ach, Robbie, of all the things to respond to, you choose that :). I don't blame
you for dropping the discussion. I think it went in more productive directions
in your absence (not that your absence allowed that to happen, but that a
different thread came up)...but I don't know that you had the chance to follow
all the threads.

Welcome back, anyhow.

About Idiosyncrasy: It doesn't have to be entirely personal *in this case.* It
can have social elements as well. I think the Encyclopedia is a good example. I
don't think there's much point in trying to develop this idea, though. I asked
a number of direct, specific questions that could serve as qualifications upon
Great Ideas that you chose to ignore, instead dwelling on the validity of you
"taking offense" at my use of the word "idiosyncrasy."

You addressed the narrow section of my post that you could choose to take as a
personal attack but really ignored the meat of my contention where I developed
it. I could say this was pretension on your part as well -- the easily wounded
ego is the surest sign of vanity -- and somewhat dishonest, as it avoids the
real topic of discussion to personalize something that's really irrelevant.
It's amazing how much time and energy you devote to making sure that *every
individual word* spoken to you treats you with the *proper* respect. But it's
not worth it to really pursue this, and only _might_ be true.

I can see you getting more and more impossible to live with the more educated
you get...I hope that doesn't happen to you.

I'm willing to admit I missed your intent -- my reading theory allows me to do
that. Yours, unfortunately, does not...

I'm debating whether or not I should bother to repeat my argument. The
substance of it tends to get consistently ignored.

I'm going return to a previous question that you never properly answered. Take
this as a sign of my faith in you. I asked, "What do you do with texts that
don't represent these Great Ideas?" You answered, "I enjoy them."

That misses the point of the question within the context of this discussion,
though. You say the presence of great ideas in ancient texts serve as anchors of
meaning, of sorts. They "resonate" with you even today, so you assume they
"resonated" with Homer (for example) in a similar manner, and as a result, you
assume you're getting Homer's intent directly.

Let me rephrase my question, then -- make it a bit clearer: "How do you
determine the meaning of literary texts that don't 'resonate' with great
ideas?" Most texts don't, you know, especially fiction written in the 20th
century. Some are about the mean particulars of everyday life and the feelings
they produce in the protagonist and those around him/her. I don't see A Great
Truth "resonating" from "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes." I don't feel I need
recourse to Great Truths to get what's going on in the story.

I'm not at all sure what Salinger, personally, meant to communicate by the story
as a whole. It's a painfully graphic representation of a specific situation.
It worked for me by putting a human face on the one suffering from the wife's
adultery while, at the same time, showing you why she would run away from him to
another man. It represents, it seems, a peculiar emotional dynamic, but doesn't
tell us what to make of it. It doesn't even rise to say, "Thou shalt not commit

So what do you do in these cases? If there's no Great Truth that reaches across
Time, Space, Culture, and Language Barriers to convey Eternal Meaning how do you
determine literary meaning? I could choose other examples too, you know.

About Chaos Theory: We're past the 20th century now, Robbie, and that's the
point. Some humanities people are taking a subtle, complex mathematical idea
and, with little to no background in the higher math, are trying to repeat its
insights and apply them to literary texts.

This may be another example of me having an opinion based upon my actual reading
and you having an opinion based reading in this particular
topic at all.

In your longer reply to John about onomatopeias, yes, I would say I gave an
oversimplified description of the idea. I think that's appropriate for this
forum. It'd be more interesting to discuss what bearing this might have on
authorial intent, on the range of possible meanings a literary text can have,
and whether or not the author can possibly account for, or deliberately intend,
all those possible meanings (as you previously claimed). It seems like you
don't want to drudge up the discussion, though, and that's perfectly alright...


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Received on Tue Jan 14 21:14:18 2003

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