|"Uh... ... ..."|
My English Professor for my first two semesters of college is a great guy. I probably learned more about writing, literature, and art in general from him than I did in all of elementary, middle, and high school combined. I've actually quoted (or rather, paraphrased) him a number of times on my blog, and I've always put a lot of value into his words. But there was one idea of his that I could never quite fully get behind for some reason. The idea (paraphrasing again here) is basically, "Author intention doesn't matter. Stories are all about what we can get out of them, so if you say a story means one thing and the author says it means another, the author can go screw themselves."
Now, my English professor was by no means biased against authors. Heck, he's a published short story writer himself. It just seems like such a scandalous idea, doesn't it? The author doesn't matter. It's like, who the heck would even think that? But I suppose it's not such a radical idea when you consider it. I mean, if works are limited only to what the author intended them to be, that radically changes the ideas we have about quality, right? Any given version of Solitaire you've played on the computer would be a masterpiece, because it's probably exactly what the creator wanted it to be - an electronic adaption of a card game. Similarly, that means with literature any cheap dime romance novel that makes a lonely woman (or man, I suppose) swoon or Warhammer 40K graphic novel (ugh) that satiates us nerds' need for MOAR WARHAMMER!!!! might as well be awarded Pulitzer prizes here and now. And ecchi anime that turns adolescent teens on would be...well, I don't really want to finish that thought, but you get the idea.
The thing is, there's no real compromise. There's your interpretation, and the author's. Whose matters more? Either yours does, or the author's does. There's no real "they both matter a little bit." It's basically a dichotomy. I guess the closest thing to a compromise would be "the author's matters up to a certain point," but even then, that definition feels kind of incomplete since then we would be stuck in a tug of war with what point.
What do you think? Are the creator's intentions for his or her work key, or do the audiences' interpretations matter more? Is there a compromise after all that I'm just not seeing?
EDIT: Somewhat Mystia has weighed in on the subject as well, if you're looking for further reading.