It’s fun? This is a super hard question to have an “answer” to. I have had the same dark thoughts that Rayna shared with us and have often wondered the importance of intent and my own interpretation. I think that if the author’s intention for the author’s novel is completely lost in the reader’s interpretation, then the work has lost a lot of its value. Of course the reader’s interpretation might seem like it has value to themselves, but I do wonder what “value” that interpretation has if it is completely irrelevant and even against what the author intended. For example, Professor Goldsmith mentioned one of the critical essays being about a homosexual/homoerotic theme in Huck Finn, and the possibly sexual relationship between Huck and Jim. What value would this essay have if Mark Twain were to come back alive and tear that argument down and deny every bit of it? I posted a link at the end of my blog to an article about the problems of using google to “self-diagnose” illnesses on google. Even thought this seems irrelevant, I find that this English conflict we are having might be reflective of this issue. The article states, “the study reminds people that if they try to get medical help from the internet, they are limited by their own biases as well as the haphazard nature of the web”. Just like we might be biased and haphazard when it comes to interpretation of illnesses, we might all be “misdiagnosing” or misinterpreting works of literature because of biases.
Well….now this just led me to think of why our interpretations might just actually matter. Maybe it doesn’t have any actual value when it comes to the text and its meaning; however, our joined interpretations could indicate what our society is absorbed with at any time. Taking back into consideration the critical essay on the homoerotic themes in the novel, its conclusions could be meaningful…. even though zombie Twain denies every bit of it. I'm not quite sure when the essay was written, but I'm going to hope that my assumption of within the past 20 years is correct. If we look at our society, there has been a lot of growth and conversation about the gay community. All of our modern interpretations matter, not because it might expose a huge secret that Twain twined into his novel—but because our interpretations document our mindsets, beliefs, and understandings as a community of that time through the median of a specific text. I wonder, if we turned our attention towards all of the critical essays written about Huck Finn from the time it was written until now, would we be able to see what biased the society of each decade? What were they infatuated with? What did they care about? What politics or social movements influenced their interpretation? Because at the end of the day, what Twain wrote and why he wrote it is fixed. And him being dead makes it a little difficult to edit, add, or alter anything about Huck Finn…especially in his zombie form… because zombies struggle making coherent sentences. However, the way a novel is read and understood does constantly keep changing. Not because each generation gets smarter or superior in their literary detective skills, but because they have different focuses.
Thinking about it this way, literature is so complicated and can be representational of multiple timelines. The novels written might expose and document the author’s mentality in accordance to their own social surroundings. While the critical responses to it the years following, document a timeline of the social responses that might correlate or juxtapose the author’s position due to what social values the author of the essay might be invested in. So to try and conclude to something and answer, “what might we gain from interpreting the novel,” we gain an understanding of what the novel might have intended and then learn from it, build upon it, and re-envision our social understandings within the context of that novel.