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Jan's Master Class--SYMBOLISM

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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GShuler
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Postby GShuler » Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:59 am

glorybee wrote:I love to have a few more people weigh in on the 'ownership' of a piece of writing. Does it mean only what the author meant it to mean? Or does it mean what the reader thinks it means?

Perhaps a little bit of both?


Confession time: I am guilty of LOVING to over search deep meanings. I think that is part of a reader's rights.

"We the reader retain the right to own, for our own use, whatsoever interpretation of meaning is gleaned, even if it was never intended by the writer. This right shall forever be an unending avenue of comfort to the reader who sees symbolism where there was none intended because then we can confirm hope in whatever interpretation lends itself to that hope."

Okay, so I just made that up. It does seem to me, though, that if a piece of writing is so well written that it has people scurrying to find deep meaning, then the author should be honored. I remember watching movies with my mother... the Super Meaning Finder of all time. We would watch a show like "Mary Poppins" over and over and over just so we could find every bit of symbolism we could muster. Most of it was never there at all, but we enjoyed finding it and justifying it as deeper than anyone else realized. For example, we have come to the conclusion that the reason Dick Van Dyke was given the part was because, even though it wasn't even invented when the movie came out, somebody was predicting that there would someday be a movie format with Dick Van Dyke's intials... DVD. That is so preposterous it goes far beyond embarassing. But it is a fun way for us to watch movies.

So, here is my valid question, or point, or whatever it ends up being. Is it all that bad to give the reader the freedom to enjoy your writing even though they missed the point you had intended? Maybe I don't see any symbolism at all. Maybe I see more than is there. A million readers are going to read our work a million different ways. That is just part of what we give the public when our work gets read.

If, like in the Dr Suess example, it is being used for something that is opposed to what we would want, then we can always let the public know what our personal intent had been. But people will still see whatever they need to see to meet their own needs.

By the way, Jan, I saw the bird and the flapping wings as a symbol of things in our life that we see and can identify but we have no control over.
I had something really memorable to write here but I forgot what it was.
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Postby glorybee » Wed Mar 25, 2009 6:59 am

Steve, Carol, Gerald, and Holly, you've all given me a lot to think about! I had no idea that a class on symbolism would start such a lengthy discussion. My cat just walked by with a smudge of dirt on her nose.

Can I also say how much I love that differing opinions have been stated with such respect? My class rocks! A butterfly has landed on my shoulder.

I haven't decided exactly how I feel. Until a few days ago, I'd never read the word 'anti-deconstructionism', so I feel rather like a 3rd grader...so I'm certainly not going to say who's right about the issue of interpreting symbols in works of literature, reader ownership, etc. Quite possibly, everyone is. A bird just thumped against my window.

I WILL say, on behalf of English teachers everywhere, that I'm sorry that so many great works of literature have been picked apart to death! (I've probably done the same. For penance, I shall read the collected works of James Whitcomb Riley, a poet I loathe). My neighbor has put up a new fence.

And I return to my original thought upon choosing this topic--that a symbol dropped into a story or a poem every now and then can add a bit of depth, imagery, foreshadowing, mood. The morning mists have hidden my car, which is parked across the street.
Last edited by glorybee on Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby anna banana » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:03 am

Wow...this discussion definitely has gotten deep, but it's definitely giving an education!
I thought about U2 as I read Steve's response. There are so many interpretations to what their songs mean that there is a whole website devoted to the interpretation! I can see a lot of Christian symbolism in their songs and I think that's great, but then there are other people who see entirely different meanings. Anyway, that was just my interesting thought for the day. :D
I have never heard of the symbolism that's been seen in Doctor Seuss's works, but it's definitely an interesting to see what other people see in them. I would like to say that I think that it can be "dangerous" to intepret Jesus' parables in different ways. I would think one could get some "interesting" theology by analyzing his parables without realizing the intention of the stories. What do you all think?

Does the "mustard bush" in this piece count as symbolism? I think you can call it symbolism that the character discovered herself? :)
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=10426
In order to clarify: Rachel Rudd

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Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:10 am

No James Whitcomb Riley on my reading list this week. Just some Ackerson. I am working on an essay on her classic piece, Sniggles. I read an interview with the author once in which she said that 75% of it was based on actual experiences that she had working as the secretary for a dyslexic pastor, that this was just a light-hearted piece. But we need not be blind to the obvious anti-ecclesiastical message. The pastor, representing the Church itself, is bumbling, disorganized. The Church gets things backwards and confused. Yet it cannot resist meddling in the lives of people. The secretary, of course, represents those countless millions of fools who waste their lives in service to the bumbling Church. And what a brilliant parting shot at the end. The thinly veiled allusion to a soon-coming sexual tryst between Susie Fields and Jim Bradford, a tryst that, to use that horrid ecclesiastical term, would be viewed as “sin” by the Church. BUT, what a stroke of genesis to name him Bradford, in an obvious call-back to the Puritan William Bradford. Here we clearly see an attack on the hypocrisy of the Puritans’, and hence all of Christendom’s, sexual mores. Nor has it escaped us that Bradford is a TWIN. Here Ackerson is at her exquisite best. Yes, yes, the Church is guilty of twin crimes. One is clearly the hypocrisy just noted. But what is the other crime? Ackerson doesn’t tell us. She doesn’t WANT to tell us. For me, it could be its materialism. For you, it could be its self-absorption. For the next reader, it could its suffocating regulations of its members’ lives. Brilliant! We know the Church is criminal, yet Ackerson feels no need to compel us to concentrate on just one of its innumerable flaws. No, we are free to loathe the Church as we will. What a master!
Last edited by swfdoc1 on Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Postby hwnj » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:24 am

...and for what has Miss Sophie been digging? :-)

I really like and agree with what Steve and Carol said, but Chely made great points about being able to address a difficult topic more sensitively, or an over used topic creatively.

I don't have any problem with people holding their own personal reflections in their hearts, as that is what makes certain writings extra special to us, but it is when those personal interpretations are propogated as the author's intent, without certain knowledge thereof, that I take extreme umbridge.
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Postby hwnj » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:37 am

Steve, ROFL! :rolling

"For penance, I shall read the collected works of James Whitcomb Riley, a poet I loathe)."
Miss Jan, there is no need to endure this when any trilogy involving at least 800 pages will do. :D
Holly

"There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." Edith Wharton

'It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.'

"In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm." Daily Encouragement Net (Stephen & Brooksyne Weber)

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Postby glorybee » Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:04 am

Rachel, I think you analysed your own poem particularly well. The mustard bush was symbolic, and your MC figured it out!

These classes are fun, aren't they?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:06 am

Steve, my 9th grade lit. students now think I'm deranged, as I just read your post and laughed out loud. Now they want to know what's so funny--and I have no idea how to explain it to them.
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Postby anna banana » Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:16 am

Steve, my 9th grade lit. students now think I'm deranged, as I just read your post and laughed out loud. Now they want to know what's so funny--and I have no idea how to explain it to them.

:rolling
9th graders can be so fun, can't they? Just tell them that you are studying anti-deconstructionism and see what fun that blows in. :)

I was thinking, after I wrote my last post, about my piece this week. I should have put that one in. It's smothered in symbolism. But I was just thinking of a cheeky question for very smart writers.... and at the risk of someone thinking that I am just fishing for more comments (I don't mind them, but that's not why I'm referencing. :D )

Know why there are 6 jars in the story?
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=28195
In order to clarify: Rachel Rudd

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Postby Tally » Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:00 am

This has been a super discussion. I am wondering -- is there some way to download this thread to a Word Document?

Thanks.

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Postby glorybee » Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:04 am

Tally, there may be a better way to do it...but I just tried a "highlight, copy, paste" maneuver, and I was able to move this to Word. Of course, you get all the avatars, etc., not just the class content.

I'd love to know if there's a "copy thread" option anywhere.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:08 am

Know why there are 6 jars in the story?
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=28195


Nope...but I bet you'd love to tell us!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:18 am

Know why there are 6 jars in the story?

Does it have anything to do with the 6 waterpots of water that Jesus turned into wine and all the implications of new wine/new covenant/ new life?
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:35 am

glorybee wrote:Steve, my 9th grade lit. students now think I'm deranged, as I just read your post and laughed out loud. Now they want to know what's so funny--and I have no idea how to explain it to them.

Just tell, them, “Don’t worry class, it was laughter of joy. Someone just explained to me what one of my stories was about. Now I can stop worrying about that one and try to figure out the next one.”
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Postby GShuler » Wed Mar 25, 2009 12:30 pm

DK Rudd wrote:Know why there are 6 jars in the story?
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=28195


Now, remember, I have already confessed to over doing the interpretation part, but I am going to take a wild, but legit guess:

Everything God created was created in six days. The pots each represent one day of creation which would then include all of God's creation which would then represent ALL of the kingdom of God thus putting you directly on target for the topic.

You are BRILLIANT to have thought of that... even if it isn't what you meant.
I had something really memorable to write here but I forgot what it was.
Gerald Shuler

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