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Poetry: Intention and Interpretation

With all of the metaphorical language in poetical writings, is there a line to be drawn when it comes to interpreting said writings? English classes go into great detail about a Freudian style psychoanalysis of a single word in a passage or verse, often extracting a five-page essay’s worth of details from the arrangement of fewer than ten letters – is this extreme?

  • I love this topic!! I am a huge fan of poetry, and my favourite part of English classes was always annotating poems. In my opinion, the beauty of poetry is that it can be taken in so many directions. There's always more depth to them, and you can always go further. It's like a very complex puzzle. Interestingly, though, I've found that nine times out of ten, a group of people analyzing a single poem get exactly the same themes/meaning out of it when analyzing the poem individually, despite their highly varied individual experiences and values. In that case, I think there's an argument that a poet puts each word into a poem to have these deeper meanings, even if it's subconsciously. In that case, a Freudian style in-depth analysis is completely justified, and the depth each poem has is what makes it such great art. – Laura Jones 5 years ago
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  • I think we have to look at the age or period in which the poetry is written, and then its meter and form, and then, its relation to 20th century criticism. However, Freud has been applied to the analysis of literature and drama before and after his time. – Jeffery Moser 5 years ago
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  • I believe there are two levels of intention and interpretation for both the author and the reader of a work.First, we have the level of clear intention. This is shown by such examples as T.S. Eliot's use of the phrases, "Hollowmen," and, "Wasteland," in the respective poems. These monickers are used clearly and repeatedly, and in this, it seems intentionally, to represent the overarching motifs in the works. This is perceptible to any reader examining the texts in any sort of in-depth fashion.Secondly, we have the level of extrapolated interpretation, which will be defined as the reference to an outside body of work, or a seemingly unnoticed characteristic of a poem or work that embodies its sustained thematics. In, "The Wasteland," Eliot describes April as the cruelest month, which could be altogether negligible to the laymen or on its own could carry the meaning intended, but the extrapolated interpretation would be to recognize the allusion to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Another example of this, although from a work of prose, would be to note that the themes of, "Hills like White Elephants" can be supported by even the rudimentary units of grammar in the conversations between the girl and the man.So, in summary, I believe there are farragos of possible interpretations to any given poem or other work, and that with enough digging, these various interpretations often, in some fashion, all end up pointing in the same thematic direction due to the overarching intentions an author has in writing a given piece. That said, I also believe that not all of these possible interpretations are result of authorial intent but rather subjective extrapolation of the text by the reader. Each of these are valid methods, and coexist to cause close-readers everywhere to see all of the parts of a given piece: those that were intended, and those that happened by accident, alike. – mrichardson35 5 years ago
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  • NO. Nothing in art is unintentional, depending on the artist. Assuming its a true artist, especially when making a didactic work, it should never be asserted that their work is a culmination of random things put together with no thought. – luminousgloom 5 years ago
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  • Luminousgloom, I was more wondering if it's possible that an absurd number of *extra* concepts are often being interpreted from an artist's work, ones which are extraneous and unintentional, which brings into the question of how much they can be given credit or held accountable for said interpretations. Certainly artists create their pieces with amazing care, and have many layers of thought which go into their work - I don't doubt that. Thank you for that opportunity to clarify this topic idea! – EulalieS 5 years ago
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  • There is no line to be drawn. Freud, like any other theorist, offers a complex theoretical perspective and its relationship to any text must be explained in-depth. I think this is why the analyses get so long sometimes. Freud himself talked about an inevitable over-determination where we inject new values into interpretation; it’s unavoidable, but it’s also part of the interpretive process. – greyject 4 years ago
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  • I, personally love applying a critical lens to all forms of literary writing, especially poetry. With that being said, certain works require different lenses: historical and cultural studies, psychoanalytical, post colonial and race studies, Queer studies, deconstructionist, Feminism, Marxism, and reader response. There are numerous literary lenses to explore, all of which have their strengths and their weaknesses. – danielle577 4 years ago
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  • Kerouac wrote on endless sheets of paper while doing speed, while Hemingway tortured himself for months over paragraphs. For me, the questions are: Did Kerouac accidentally leave more of himself on paper or did Hemingway? And - especially if the latter is the greater unconscious revealer of self - is there no way to block unconscious intent regardless of process? – Tigey 4 years ago
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