Geoffrey H. Hartman Frederick Crews - Essay

Frederick Crews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There can be no mistaking the fact that the study of meaning has now been vigorously contested. Some theorists hold that such study is always marred by a simplistic equation of meaning with the mental states of authors before or during the act of composition. A preoccupation with meaning, they say, leads to an undervaluing of conventional elements that are crucial to the way literature is perceived. But that cogent point is in itself no menace to academic business as usual. The real challenge comes from theorists—let me call them indeterminists—who argue that meaning is conferred not by authors but by readers, and that a work's meaning is therefore constantly subject to change. If that position is accepted,...

(The entire section is 1767 words.)