Starting with a little anequedote always breaks the ice, right? When I was a sophmore in college, I wanted to go on a trip to Brazil. It was a little out of my price range and being the good little child that I was, I decided to ask my parents if they would help me out with some of the funds. My father told me, "I want you to work as hard as you can for as long as you can. By the time payments are due for the trip, if you're short a little bit we'll help you out." I thought that this was kind of a raw deal but I agreed.
Meanwhile, I was reading The First American, a great biography of Benjamin Franklin. In this biography, Mr. Franklin wants to open his own printing shop and asks his wealthy father if he will give him the money. His father, as mine did, replies that he wants Franklin to work as hard as he can...and you can probably guess how that little speech ended. It was what my father told me, verbatim. I was blown away, how can a book like that possibly relate to my life so directly?
I think that was the beginning of my little bout of craziness. I then started to see my life through everything that I read. Literally. I know some of you reading this would probably think that I tried to find things to relate to my life, like a sane person. But no, I had to see everything that happened to someone in a book as something that would or has happened to me. If the main character was kicked out of an organization that he was part of, I thought I was going to get expelled from university. If someone in a book remembers a time when his girlfriend cheated on him, I thought my girlfriend was cheating on me. All sorts of scenarios became real in my mind: infidelity, death, yearning, love, success, failure. The possibilies were only too real to me, and after a few years (yes, years) of this I started to get scared of myself.
I would purposely avoid some books that I knew had themes that would make me feel a certain way about myself, instead of separating fiction and truth or even my truth and someone else's truth. I can't imagine what I was supposed to do about this.
To make a long story short I'm better now, but lately I've been thinking about what this means in regards to critical theory of texts. The school that I've always followed in terms of theory is that of Reader Response theory, which states that art is not created when pen is put to paper but when words are put to consciousness. Reading a word creates that meaning in the mind of the reader.
Proving, or perhaps disproving, this theory may prove a little difficult. The best way I can try to prove this relates to a person I know from Spain. Yesterday, at work, I asked her what was wrong and she said to me, "The Moors are on the shore." I just kind of looked at her oddly, thinking she was trying to give me a history lesson. In Spain, it is obviously a very well known phrase; but in America... not so much. Just as if I would write down, "The Eagle has landed." and handed it to a person in Germany, they would look around and wonder where the beautiful bird was. The meaning is made in the people who have heard of the moon landing.
How does this theory relate to my experience with paranoia (which thanks to a nice doctor I figured out this was)? Even in the mind of someone who may be a little chemically unbalanced, the words have meaning. Is there meaning in what the author (or artist, or musician) intended? Of course there is, but just because someone sees a painting in which the artist wished to portray something horrible and you see something beautiful, does that mean you're wrong? In my opinion, no.
First blog post, I know. But I'm very enthused about getting writing out there, even if it is the internet. So if anyone has a comment, critique, question...let me know. Thanks, and I hope to hear from some of you soon!