Thursday, June 26, 2003

Hello there everyone; I am Mark Jeremiah Boone, Writing Center peer tutor at Dallas Baptist University; I am new to the blog.

I want to talk about postmodernism/premodernism as it pertains to the reading/interpretation of a text. In my own experience here I have noticed little relevance of the issue except when perusing student's papers for English classes.

My knowledge of the subject includes several philosophy courses and the fact that I have read books on postmodernism by premodern authors (Francis Schaeffer), books I would simply describe as "premodern" (for instance, CS Lewis), books I would call "postmodern" (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and a little Heiddegger), and books that have aspects of a Christian postmodernism (Gilbert Keith Chesterton). I have also taken classes with both premodern and postmodern professors.

The issue, as I understand it, is this: premodernism's creed regarding hermeneutics (of Scripture or any other text) is that there is one interpretation. Whereas postmodernism's creed is that there is one text, and many interpretations. The particular reader is isolated above the universal text. As far as our work in a Writing Center setting goes, the question is how our thinking should be, for instance, when a reader (a student) of a poem by, say, Robert Frost, has written in his/her paper an interpretation of the poem that probably has nothing to do with what Rober Frost meant when he wrote the poem.

In other words, is the author's intention more important or is what the reader gets out of it more important? When I think about my most distinctly premodern professor, who says that there is "one interpretation, many applications," and my most distinctly postmodern professor, who says that logical limits must be placed on the interpretation (EG, "Alice in Wonderland" will never be a manual for constructing spaceships), it seems to me that the problem is smaller than it looks. If the student's interpretation of Robert Frost is an absurd one when compared to the author's intention when writing the poem, I will try to explain the correct meaning of the poem. If the interpretation is certainly not what Robert Frost intended but is not in contradiction with the his intention either, I would consider the student's insight to be a legitimate application of the poem and may or may not suggest to them that it is such rather than an interpretation. The bottom line is, my proposed compromise/alloy of premodern and postmodern text theory is that the most important thing is the application any reader gets from the author's intention, that is: the many applications the various readers will get from the single correct interpretation.

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