Academic Literary Analysis equals Conspiracy Theories!

So I overheard my son complaining about his English Lit teacher’s need for him to analyze everything to death.

“If the author is a good author,” he argued, “the meaning of work will be obvious, because they know how to write clearly. It’s like trying to analyze why a fire engine is painted red. The obvious answer is that red is easy to see, and gets your attention. If you try to go any farther you get into conspiracy theory-style explanations. Trying to pull stuff out of a book that isn’t naturally there is like a meme I saw: fire trucks are red because Russians are red, and fire trucks are always rushin’ around.”

I paraphrase.

Now sure, symbolism, yes, levels of meaning, yes, allegory, yes, the author often isn’t aware of all of meaning he’s building in, yes, I get all that. (And we’ll have that conversation.) But at the same time, I think the kid’s onto something.

photo credit: 1959 Crosley Half Scale Fire Truck ‘117773’ 1 via photopin (license)


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