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fortunesfool's picture

Accessing the truth

On Thursday when we were discussing the poem “On Beauty” in class, we briefly talked about how some kind of fear or insecurity kept many of us away from posing interpretations of the poem. It was an insecurity rooted in not feeling equipped with the proper skills for interpretation, which prevented us from getting to the “true” meaning of the poem. Immediately I thought about the nature of truth, and if it could even be applied to poetry, or if like in science it is not a process of learning the truth but of getting progressively less wrong. As reader-response theory would have it, the “truth” of a poem doesn't even exist until some individual reads it.

I think its interesting that we still feel that there has to be some kind of truth to literature, and that the way to get at that truth is by endlessly analyzing and picking apart passages, and that the people best equipped do do this are literary critics, or English professors or what have you. This feeling is so strong that those without a background in literary analysis feel anxious about suggesting possible interpretations. In this sense, a sort of scala naturae of the literate world is created; a hierarchy of more perfect and complex organisms, with only those at the top being totally equipped to appreciate literature. I can't help but feeling, however, that close analysis and interpretation is but one way to experience a poem. It is any less real or “true” to read a poem and appreciate its beauty? To allow it to simply make you feel?

Should children not read poetry because they can't get to the “truth” of it?

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