There are four of us doing a class presentation/seminar on subtext; we have a lot of ideas on how to show subtext.... but we are struggling to devise a question that we can argue!
Any help would be much appreciated.
The main "controversy" involving subtext is "intentionality." Does the artist intentionally insert subtext, and is he/she "intending" to have the work received as a "puzzle" or "riddle" to be deciphered, etc.; or is subtext a product of the reader's/viewer's imagination, depending on his/her past experiences and interpretive skills, etc.? The "old" criticism sought to unravel the artist's secret "meaning," while New Criticism deals with the effect of structure/form that the artist uses. A good way to address this controversy is to offer up two distinct works of art -- say a Wordsworth poem and an E. E. Cummings poem, or a Mozart piece and a Philip Glass piece, or a Rembrandt and a Warhol -- and ask the debaters/participants how each approach engages or disengages the works' subtext. A good question, then, might be "Which approach best informs the work's subtext and what are the shortcomings of that approach?" Hope this helps.