Chapter

Why There are so Many Meanings (II)

Jack Stillinger

in Reading The Eve of St. Agnes

Published in print November 1999 | ISBN: 9780195130225
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855209 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195130225.003.0005
Why There are so Many Meanings (II)

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This chapter continues the discussion on the reasons for the diversity of interpretations for any complex literary piece. It tackles the other half of the reader–work transaction—the actual body of work—with particular focus on its authorship. The author’s actual intent is usually ambiguous and practically unrecoverable, which is exemplified in John Keats’s comments on his practice of “intentionless spontaneity” in his compositions. Nevertheless, to exclude the author in determining the meaning of his work would render the interpretation incomplete. Also, the author’s hand in the creation of the work is “visible” in the many little cues that exist throughout the text of any manuscript. Thus, the “reader-response-based theory of multiple interpretation” proposed in the previous chapter is further enriched with the inclusion of the author and the text as major elements. The remaining section discusses Keats and the various indicators of meaning embedded in the poem’s text.

Keywords: John Keats; reader-response-based theory; multiple interpretations; poem; readers; reader–work transaction; author

Chapter.  8978 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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