Thursday, February 26, 2009

Text and Interpretation

“The death of the writer.”
Have you ever heard of the phrase? Post-modern theory of literature claims that a writer is dead, even when he/she is still alive. When? As soon as his/her work is published!
The point is: once a literary work goes out into the open, it is no longer regarded as sole property of the writer. From the moment it comes into publication, it becomes the reader’s and society’s full right to give interpretations of the context. Hence: publication is the death of the writer.
Shakespeare (bless his soul!) would have no right to refute in case someone came up with conclusions that Hamlet was a double-minded man and Macbeth a total psycho. Ayu Utami cannot object when others judge her novels, Saman and Larung as obscene, and Dan Brown must remain silent as public denounce Da Vinci Code as heresy.
Regardless of the author’s idea and intention, public interpretation of a literary work can grow broad and unlimited. Sometimes, interpretations vary and take on a new course in keeping up with the trend of time. Here are some examples:
· Luc Besson’s The Messenger gives us a brand new angle at viewing the legend of Jeanne D’Arc. Instead of a saint, we are presented with an ordinary peasant girl who’s mentally disturbed from childhood at the heart of the story. So, we wonder: are the voices she hears truly a message from God or mere delusions?
· Peter Jackson made a wonderful interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings when he transferred the role of Arwen Undomiel from the appendix to the core of the story. I doubt if Tolkien would consent to it, but it certainly made the whole story more understandable and enjoyable to fans and movie-goers worldwide.
· And these days, we’ve got Daniel Craig playing Agent 007. Contradictory to the classical version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, this British secret agent actually falls in love with a single woman, no longer beds hot chicks and cares nothing if his martini’s shaken or stirred.
This is the 21st century. Interpretation is in the hand of the readers. Let’s see who’ll come up next and set the world onto a brand new course in defining the classic.

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