Death of the Author
Watching This video again reminded me of an exercise from Creative Writing that was at the time just intolerable and exciting all at once. Peer Reading.
Every day we would be presented with a writing prompt and then given time to create something from it. Being kids, often times these would be gross out sessions or confessionals. Pictures of birds would become poems and pieces of music would become stories.
Some of the class would use this chance to criticize the prompts rather than use the time to create something.
It’s those people that were missing out. Because they became the author and instead of using the time and space given them every day to create something new, they took the chance to snipe and attack at the very thing they were supposed to be inspired by. In a way, they were inspired, but they failed to engage in the very task they were set out. They were asked to create, and instead they took their time to destroy. “They Chose Violence” so to speak.
This image is a good example of one of the prompts, which was a penguin. Some people wrote short stories about lost penguins, some about loneliness. There was a poem about how there was nothing but penguins.
When it came time to discuss the writing that day some of the class seized on the notion that the poem about the lack of other birds was the author talking about the conformist nature of High School (where we were) and Society as a whole. That the Poem was about how a lack of diversity was dangerous. Or that the Poet was embodying a lonely penguin, seeking something more.
They were all wrong about the authors intent. The Author just dashed it off in moments: “Penguins! Everywhere Penguins! No Great Auks, no Eagles, no sparrows. Everywhere I look all I see are Tuxedo Birds. Everywhere, there’s penguins!”
Yeah, it was short and easy to put meaning on. It also was “just as it was” there was no deeper meaning to it. So the class, when faced with the idea that “It just was a complaint about the penguins” got hostile.
They insisted that there was deeper meaning in it, especially given who the author was. I’m told that they thought the author was stoned more than they were sober at this period. Which in itself was amazing, because they were 100% straight-edge.
That’s the thing, we put our own meaning and own message in our media. We hang our own emotions on every hook a piece gives us to do so. So that we can decorate it with meaning for ourselves.