Dissertation Ponderings: Authorial Intent

I’ve been working in my dissertation and thought I’d share some of my “mind mapping” images. The image below is part of chapter two – at least that’s how it started – which is my framework chapter. This chapter describes how I’m going to approach my topic, another way I like to think of it is what “lenses” will I be wearing as I explore my topic. I’m using (or wearing) Matthews’ Philosophy of Childhood as an alternative to the traditionally accepted stage theories of development (like Piaget). I’m also using Ranciere as a way to consider what happens if teachers and students start from a place of equality.

The photo below was me trying to figure out if the idea of “authorial intent” is one way I can explain my thinking, or if it was just me going off on a tangent to avoid actual writing. I’m still working on it, but the good news is that I don’t think it is just a tangent (although it might come in to play in a different chapter).

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I’ve always been bothered by the question of authorial intent – it seems to me like the only way to get the answer is to actually ask the author. I know that isn’t necessarily true – there are some pieces of writing where authorial intent is very clear – like in very didactic books.

I really appreciate John’s Green’s thoughts on the matter. I’ve watched How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1 numerous times. Today I discovered that someone has isolated his “Open Letter to Authorial Intent” (which is part of the How We Read video).

One particular thing he says has stuck with me and I will continue to think about in terms of the ways that elementary teachers are prepared to think about literature…

Inevitably reading is a conversation between and author and a reader, but give yourself some power in that conversation reader! Go out there and make a world. 

I think that the idea of authorial intent is going to come in because if that is the objective of a lesson, then it has the potential to significantly impact the types of literature a teacher selects. In other words, if my goal as a teacher is for students to be able to identify the author’s intent of a book, then I’m only going to select books that have one clear message.

At least that’s where I am right now… more soon!

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