Authorial Intent and Ham Sandwiches

I regularly teach both literature and literary theory courses, so I’m regularly confronted with the problem of interpreting literature. What defines meaning in a literary work? The default position is “the author’s intent,” and people generally think that if you were to somehow distance linguistic meaning from authorial intent that words might come to mean anything and everything anyone wants them to mean. I’d like to start by saying that the fear is unfounded: words are our most important shared cultural resource, which means that no one — neither readers nor writers — have the ability to make any given … Continue reading Authorial Intent and Ham Sandwiches

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