New Isn’t Necessarily Better

When we hear the word “new” many of our minds unfortunately interpret that word as better. In 2016 “new” is considered an upgrade, a modernized and more updated version of the former. But with the idea of New Criticism, leaving the old ideas behind may not be for the best. As students aren’t we supposed to question either the understood OR misunderstood happenings in the world surrounding us? (Or in this case, the writings that we are read and taught in a classroom). Instead, New Criticism wants us to define the overall answer, the actual meaning of the work. But without our own interpretation ofisunderstood happenings in the world surrounding us? (Or in this case, the writings that we are read and taught in a classroom). Instead, New Criticism wants us to define the overall answer, the actual mean the words, we may not truly be digesting what the author intended to express anyway. To limit poetry (a text) to one finite answer should be considered a crime.

“Placing little emphasis on the author, the social context, or a text’s historical situation as a source for discovering a poem’s meaning, the New Critics assert that a reader’s emotional response to a text is neither important nor equivalent to its interpretation.” Even though a text such as poetry is meant to be read, the poem itself should be looked at as a whole. The reader’s interpretation truly means nothing. But by having our own ideas and opinions on the words, we actually learn more by expanding our learning. It seems the argument of either close reading or interpretation is in a never ending loop.

Shannen Coleman

Text & Work

I’ve always used the words “text” and “work” interchangeably when speaking of a book or piece of literature. I never thought there would be a distinction between the two. After reading Roland Barthe’s From Work to Text I’ve come to understand that “the work can be held in the hand, [and] the text is held in language.” The work is stationary. It’s what holds the language together, meanwhile the text lies within the work. I would agree that the text is the essence of the work. Maybe in the past, auctors would disagree and say that the work is what holds all the importance and that there is no distinction between the work and what is written inside. The work was whole and important to its spiritual connotations.

In The Death of an Author, Barthe’s also mentions that “the author is a modern figure.” Text is a newly created term and is linked to how the importance of literature has evolved over time. A book isn’t just read and taken word by word to mean what it is. We analyze it and create new ideas and meanings, “text cannot stop (for example on a library shelf); its constitutive movement is that of cutting across (in particular, it can cut across the work, several works).” This is seen in the way we now target one particular work from different areas of studies to have a greater understanding of it.

Although we interpret works through interdisciplinary methods, I think we can agree that in the end we still don’t know all there is to know about a work. I can compare a work to a lock and the key would be the text. The way we examine the language in the text allows us to obtain a deeper understanding and unlock the mysteries that lay within the work. The both need each other but without understanding how the key and lock work, we cannot unlock and make use of its function.

As reader’s we can study the text and become authors of our own interpretation of a work. The author of the work doesn’t play a role in our interpretation and therefore we become creators of an idea that was born from a text, which can become our form of a work. So can a text become a work?