What did they really mean?

A student in another school having read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley commented “Frankenstein has been viewed as a commentary on exploring new scientific frontiers such as stem cell research”.

A writer on the American poet Emily Dickinson commented “Her life choices and ability to live within herself are reflected in her poetry..” “…look how she judges something by its limits, similar to the limitations in her personal life.”

How much does biographical knowledge of an author matter?? Do authors place an intended meaning or message in their works? If so, is that meaning fixed? Does each generation bring new meaning to a text in the light of its own experiences? This is what the Year 8 Scholars have been debating in their recent sessions.

The students looked at a fascinating piece of work by a keen student in the 1960s who decided to write to some of the most famous authors of the time to ascertain their views on this question.

Asked whether they consciously, intentionally planned and placed symbolism in their writing or if it occurred sub consciously, they responded as follows:

Jack Kerouac “No”

Issac Asimov “Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?”

Ray Bradbury “No, I never consciously place symbolism in my writing.”

There were many other interesting responses.

Discussion amongst the Year 8 Scholars led to the conclusion that it was possible for the meaning of texts not to be “fixed” and for reinterpretation to be possible for later generations. However, they also saw that this might be a more contentious issue when it came to religious texts in particular.

The group will return to this topic in later sessions.