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November 28, 2014



I completely agree! I have people ask me about deeper meanings to my paintings, and I just shrug. I painted it because I liked the subject matter or the color. I am rarely trying to send a coded message. But art is only half finished by the artist (or author), it is only when the art is viewed or read by someone else that it becomes complete. Art means something different to everyone.

And it is definitely just as important as food or shelter. It has a huge impact on people, much more than we realize.


I've thought about this a lot! As a writer, I know that I'm ridiculously deliberate about what I write- from story structure to individual words. But even when I know a specific detail needs to be written and that the scene is better for it, I rarely think of that detail as a symbol.

I tend to be skeptical of saying that an author meant to do anything. Yet I also think that our students need to learn how to closely examine text. It was after a Highlights workshop with Patti Gauch that I found ways to talk about text with my high school creative writing students.

So this year, when my class was first working with mentor texts, I never mentioned authorial intent. (What does the blue dress symbolize, etc.) Instead, I mimicked Patti and asked students how details in the text changed their reading of it. How is the scene different with that candle on the mantel? With that one last sentence in the conversation? How does starting HERE affect the story?

I found it moved the focus away from the author. It made students pay attention to their own pulse as they read, but required that they study the word-craft that created (or failed to create) that response.

Jennifer N.

I strongly agree with what was said, especially that what readers think the meaning of a story should be. How they interpret a story, poem, a song, or any other piece of art should be up to them. I don't think there should be a right or wrong way to interpret something when the creator may not know its meaning. That said, I have to say I really don't like the reading comprehension part of the mandated school tests they give us. I feel like we have to see their side, the "correct side" of what something means, and as an avid reader of many different genres, I find that hard to do. I'd like to know what other opinions people have about that kind of test. Speaking bluntly, I dislike them and find them unfair, because, as said before, it should be up to the reader to decide what they think the meaning of a work or art is, there isn't *shouldn't* be a right or wrong answer.

On another note, I love my English teachers who help me see something from a different perspective and with a different meaning, as long as they don't force that opinion on me. I enjoy doing personal analysis and I feel like it makes me a little bit more open-minded when it comes to bigger topics. Thanks for posting this!! :)


Thank you for posting this! I taught college composition for a few years and still work in an academic setting. It really interests (and frustrates) me how frequently students refuse to partake in meaningful analysis of a work. During one class, for example, we read a critical article about J.K. Rowling's representation of women in the Harry Potter series. One student refused to discuss the article's perspective because it was "overanalyzing" what was "supposed to just be a fun story." When I think about what a huge cultural phenomenon Harry Potter is, how many lives it has changed and improved, how it turned so many non-readers into book fanatics....calling the series a "fun story" unworthy of discussion feels truly disrespectful to its influence, doesn't it?

Sometimes such analysis seems to suck the fun out of reading, but it doesn't have to. Books aren't author's puzzles that no one can solve. I believe that--within reason--books belong to their readers, and finding meaning and locating the technical, structural, and literary qualities of a work is a big part of becoming a better thinker and (of course) reader.

And Sarah--thank you for your link to Patti Gauch at Highlights. I've attended a workshop there and found it so interesting and helpful. I never thought of approaching analysis that way in a classroom, but now I will.

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