On Sun, Nov 18, 2012 at 11:48 AM, And Rosta <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> This is a bit OT, but it did come up in the context of conlang
> translation...
> Patrick Dunn, On 15/11/2012 20:59:
>  Yup, that's a common misreading.  But it is a misreading.
> I argued in an earlier message that the alleged misreading is a better
> reading than the 'correct' one.
> Furthermore, what is your criterion for determining a reading's
> correctness, and how in the present instance does it lead you to conclude
> that the OED v1(12b) reading is incorrect?

I know, and I was grumpy and being curt before.  And although I am no
longer as grumpy, having finished grading my stack of papers, I still don't
buy that "poppies blow" is a valid reading, for two reasons:

1.  There's nothing else in the poem to motivate the relevance of wind, but
of course it's obvious that poppies, being flowers, blow.
2.  X blows., when X != wind, doesn't work grammatically.  It requires
serious deformation of the language to say that a stationary object, like a
poppy, is "blowing," and without one of the appropriate prepositions
afterwards (into, around), it again seems very ungrammatical.  Of course,
sometimes such grammatical rules are broken in poetry in order to trigger a
metaphor, but see 1.

>  Whether or not a particular reader knows a word doesn't change the
>> nature of a text, only of the reader's interpretation.  If we had
>> this standard for all reading, then "In a Station of the Metro" would
>> be about ghosts.
> What is a text? Does it have only one correct interpretation? Or does it
> have potentially many correct interpretations but also potential incorrect
> interpretations too?  (I mean these questions nonrhetorically; I realize
> they fall within your area of professional expertise.)

A text is any artifact constructed of words.  Texts do, usually, have
several correct interpretations, as well as many incorrect ones.  For
example, we could validly read Flander's Field as a pro-war poem, or as an
anti-war poem, and arguments could be made either way (although in my
opinion one is much stronger than the other, unless you read the ending
very ironically).  But that doesn't mean that one may simply misread a word
and claim a defense from ignorance.

New Critics might disagree with me, of course, but New Critics are what the
Oa might call "cold food."

> With an ordinary nonliterary text, one might reasonably define the correct
> interpretation(s) as the ones the speaker strives to ensure the addressee
> makes, with the presumption that the speaker constructs the text in such a
> way as to maximize (within general Gricean constraints) the likelihood of
> the addressee making the desired interpretations. That presumption isn't
> applicable to poetical texts, and nor, it seems, is the definition.

That is an approach, but it's not one that's currently in much favor, due
to the double influence of the New Critics and the Poststructuralists.
 And, even though I'm neither, I see their point.  If meaning lies in the
intent of the author, it's forever unavailable.  If it lies solely in the
mind of the reader, than any damnfool reading of a text is acceptable, and
as democratic as that sounds it's not conducive to good communication.
 Meaning arises from the interplay of the author, text, and reader.  The
author, hoping to create an image in the reader's ICM, creates stimuli in
the form of the text.  But A cannot know what R has as mental furniture, so
when R perceives the text, his or her ICM may not have all the requisite
bits that A assumed (R may not know, for example, that "blow" means "bloom"
when said of flowers).  It's R's job there to strive to achieve, as much as
possible, the original context, without surrendering the new context.

And, of course, R's ICM contains information that A didn't have, and that
information can be productively brought to the text -- or unproductively.
 I've taught Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants, and had students very
astutely point out that the woman in the story has already decided to have
the abortion, because otherwise she wouldn't be drinking alcohol.  Great
point, but it's a misreading, because when this story was written we did
not know the effects of alcohol on fetuses.  On the other hand, analyzing
her dialog from the perspective of, for example, Feminist criticism can be
very productive, even though as a school of thought it didn't exist when
the work was written.

Second Person, a chapbook of poetry by Patrick Dunn, is now available for
order from Finishing Line