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How should the readers take the creators' comments on their works?

Let me start with the situation that brought this topic to my mind. In the interview in 2016(Jump Ryu, vol.1), Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, commented that the show’s hero Son Goku does not feel any friendship towards other characters, including Krillin. This caused some controversy among the fans who saw this interview, because many thought that Goku and Krillin were the best friends; after all, Goku’s anger exploded on Krillin’s first death, and it was Krillin’s death that triggered Goku’s transformation to Super Saiyan. Does that mean the death of someone, whom he had no strong feelings for, made him angry enough to transform? Did he vow revenge for those he felt no friendship? The some fans were outraged, and some found Toriyama’s comments ridiculous, because that was far from what they read in the text, and this new information did not clear any questions they had.

Toriyama’s comments caused few controversies in the past, due to how contradictory it sounded to the readers, and also the fact that he was often forgetful of his own creations. Some even questioned the validity of his comments on Dragon Ball.

But there are other creators whose comments outside the completed text that sometimes clarifies few points. Take Tolkien’s defense of Frodo. When a fan wrote to him that Frodo does not deserve to be a hero because he had succumbed to the Ring’s seduction in the end, Tolkien explained that though Frodo could not bring himself to destroy the One Ring, his sufferings and humility up to that point deserve highest honor. In this case, the author’s comments clarified his intentions to the readers.

So this got me thinking: how should the readers treat the creator’s comments when reading the text? How critical should the readers be when considering the comments made by the creators? What analysis should be made when it seems to contradict the readings?

  • What you're describing here is, in literary theory, typically known as "Intentional Fallacy" (coined by Wimsatt & Beardsley in their famous essay of that name). It essentially argues that the text is an autonomous object which must be capable of standing on its own without the need for extratextual evidence to guide interpretation. Whatever the author intended it to mean should be made evident simply by reading the text on its own merits, and if that intention can only be made known by the author's extratextual commentary, then s/he has failed to convey that meaning in the text itself. This opens the floodgates for equally valid interpretations that differ dramatically from (and potentially contradict) the author's initial intent, so long as it can be argued on a basis of purely textual evidence. Though many critics follow this practice as gospel, more conventional wisdom typically dictates a middle course, in which authorial intent is treated as a litmus test which the text must pass before those statements can be accepted as valid sources of interpretation. – ProtoCanon 7 years ago
  • ProtoCanon's comment is very good, but I disagree with this statement: "Though many critics follow this practice as gospel..." I don't think most literary critics today would follow Wimsatt and Beardsley's view that anything "external" to the text itself should be ignored. Critics today tend to see a text as very open, as something that is best understood by understanding the issues surrounding the text: significant historical events, significant events in the life of the author, patterns of reception by readers, and so on. They generally don't set a firm boundary around what is and what is not "the text." Today's critics would likely agree with Wimsatt and Beardsley, though, that the work of the critic must involve a lot more than simply repeating what the author said about the author's own work. – JamesBKelley 6 years ago
  • Every professor I've had said this: Once you put your work out in the world, it is out of your hands. Anyone can interpret it anyway, whether you intended it to be that way or not. The reader's interpretation with the text is part of their experience and conversation. The author can say what they intended, but that does not mean it's definite. – as1833 6 years ago
  • Humans cannot help but attract to each other like magnets to share personal experiences, et cetera and then from these smaller or larger human groups, they repel like magnets to share and reshape the new knowledge they have accumulated. The pattern of accumulation and dissemination of information from one book or person to many others crosses the boundaries of time and space to advance our civilisations. – RipperWriter 6 years ago