Hey, guys! This paper is in a REALLY rough state; in fact, I don’t even have an introduction for it yet. I am requesting for you guys to comment on my ideas and concepts rather than grammar and mechanics. Do you think my points are valid? Are the arguments I’m making seem valid? Which of them seem weak and lacking? In which sections do I seem to be making claims that are too broad and bold? Thanks a bunch!
21 October 2011
If ideas are dreams, then works of literature are their manifestations, or rather the means by which the dreamer, in this case the writer, chooses to share them. Freud says that “you are aware that the dream seems foreign and strange to the dreamer himself; how much more so to an outsider to whom his personality is unknown” (194). For Freud dreams are the keys to opening the doors to the dreamers’ sub consciousness. When dreams are supported with information, such as “the personality of the dreamer, the conditions under which he lives, [and] the impressions in his mind after which his dream occurred”(158), we are given the position to “translate it at sight” (158). A reader can try to deduce elements in a written work and find messages and symbols that indicate a writer’s political views and social constraints, or lack thereof. And, in fact, when one sees that all of one’s deductions seem to connect smoothly, one believes that one can truly interpret a text; however, what would happen if one finds another with a different “flawless” conclusion? And what if that one found another? And another? Tens of hundreds interpretations could sprout and all of them would be right, or would they?
“The custom among the ancients…was to speak quite obscurely…So that those who were to come after and study them might gloss the letter and supply its significance” (v. 9-16). Marie de France, through the prologue of her Lais, instructs her readers to delve into great depths when analyzing her texts, for there is deep meaning and significance within it. Essentially, she clearly says that there are symbols and messages waiting to be found.
Bisclavret, France’s twist on the traditional werewolf story, is a seemingly standard story of betrayal and revenge. A renowned nobleman is introduced with the mythical ability to transform into a wolf. Upon discovering her husband’s abnormal transformation, she becomes disgusted and recruits an accomplice to ruin the husband. Ultimately, the nobleman attains revenge by killing the accomplice and tearing off his wife’s nose. As you can tell, it is a typical story with a simple plot line. Looking close enough, however, you find details that seem to be far from apolitical. Perhaps the nobleman’s transformation represents men’s freedom. In spite, others may try to strip men of it, but men will suppress those that deny them their God-given right. In a sense, France enforces the idea that righteousness will prevail. Using Freud’s psychoanalytic means of addressing the story, we may see the story as a conflict between the two genders. The nobleman’s transformation may refer to men’s beastly nature. They run and “hunt” as they please without remorse or consideration for their counterparts, who are expected to accept the men’s adulterous tendencies. When the woman of the story attempts to persecute her husband for his atrocious acts and acquire a lover of her own, the nobleman castrates her pseudo-phallus, namely her nose. One can find the likeness between these examples, but one can just as easily identify the differences in them. Is one more right than another?
Freud explains to his readers that we “think that the translating of the symbols is the ideal method of interpretation” (196); however, he commands us to “clear our minds of so pernicious an error” (196), for “nor everything with which an object or an occurrence can be compared appears in dreams as symbolic of it, and, on the other hand, dreams do not employ symbolism for anything and everything…” (195). Many of our deductions are meanings we desire, meanings that prove our theories and teach grand lessons that we have already subconsciously formed for ourselves. In fact, Freud suggests that our perception “approaches closely to allusion” (159). And though this is a rather discouraging suggestion, it should not be taken as mockery or scoff. In his Book of Good Love Juan Ruiz welcomes the interpretative mind, and opens his text to readers. He leaves room for addition and correction to those that “know how to write well”. In essence, Ruiz admits that written works do not only belong to the writer but to their readers as well. A man can look at a cloud and find the outline of a ice cream, but another may find a star in the same cloud. Does it matter what nature intended for it to look like, if were to portray anything at all?
Endnotes: Do you guys mind if I send you both a more polished version via email so that I can get more in-depth feedback?