Monday, March 16, 2009

Flannery O'Connor and Presumption

I have never read Flannery O'Connor, although I have wanted to for some time now. The Anchoress pointed out a blog post by Amy Wellborn that give hints on where to start, and I have updated my Amazon wishlist accordingly. :O)

But I really wanted to share a Flannery O'Connor quote that Ms. Wellborn shares, on the accuracy of literary analysis:

There is always the danger of over-analysis coming between the reader and author, a danger of which O'Connor was keenly aware.

(Read her letter of March 28, 1961, to a professor of English who shared with O'Connor his students' interpretation of "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Her letter begins: "The interpretation of your ninety students and three teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could get to be." It ends: "Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it. My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.")

How would you like to find out that someone else presumes they know what you were 'really' saying? That strikes me as the height of arrogance, and ought to provoke us to caution when interpreting works.

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