A Marshalling of Happenstance and Banana Bread
(From a discussion (intellectual catfight?) between the Errant Digeratus and me about allusions, reading, authors, Gravity's Rainbow, and Ulysses. I often wax incoherent, but I stand by my intent.)
'You claim: "Certainly you can say "X was cold" or "A frigid wind blew over the exposed crag where X stood" but your reader will never think of what you were thinking as you wrote it (how your body reacts to cold) or how X was feeling (whatever that could possibly mean), the reader will interpret the feeling as how his body feels cold." Certainly. But, if you say "X was cold," the reader will not picture George W. Bush in a sundress standing on a beach ball on the sun. You have said nothing about W, let alone beach balls, and the sun is very hot, not cold. The reader will likely register a thought close to what the author meant by cold. It is important to note that the reader has a unique take on the world and thus each time something is read it is made anew (even if it is read by the same person twice), but it does not end discussion.
"Indeed, on your view, the only way for an allusion to contribute to meaning is if an author explicitly says so externally to the text in question."
Not my view; of course the reader constructs meaning. If you are looking at a text, the author always meant, never means (despite what our English teachers tell us about using the present tense). For me, the author died at the moment of finishing the text, but was very much alive when composing. The truth is, I am far more a Barthesian than what I'm letting on in this exchange; it's why I don't like to say what I "meant" when someone is in the process of interpreting a story or poem I've written; it's finished; it's on the page; what I meant is no longer of value. But there was a unique organizing force; perhaps a marshalling of society and happenstance and the banana bread I had for breakfast, but an organizational force nonetheless. A reader comes along and picks up the printout: she reads, and, based on her "knowledge and assumptions," constructs meaning for herself out of the text. Maybe she notices what she believes to be an allusion to another work. Maybe the author intended it as an allusion, maybe he didn't; if he intended it, then noticing it will likely prove fruitful (as it might reveal something in keeping with the original imposition of order and substance), and if he didn't, noticing it will likely prove less fruitful (because it would not have originally been part of any constructive scheme). I say "likely" and I mean it; there's no telling for sure.'
And so on.