We explored a bit about different interpretations (meanings, analyses) in some previous posts. I might post a follow-up later if I have the time.
Now, we’ll move on to discussing /how/ we actually arrive at these meanings.
In the study of knowledge, epistemology (I did last year’s science fair project on that! I got 60% on it!), there are two main ways to acquire knowledge: a priori and a posteriori knowledge. One of these two types of knowledge is the name of someone in Catch-22, and so I vividly remember it due to hours of rolling on the ground laughing at how stupid the name was and how painful rolling on the ground laughing is. I would roll on the ground, laugh, and then laugh at my past self being in pain from rolling on the ground laughing. It was an odd activity.
Anyways, a priori knowledge is things you learn from prior knowledge. For example, knowing that the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees, that a right-angle triangle has one 90-degree angle, and that two angles are equal in an isosceles triangle, you know that a right-angled isosceles triangles’ angles are 45 degrees, 45 degrees, and 90 degrees.
A posteriori knowledge requires experience. You wouldn’t know who the current King of France is a priori; you would have to find that out (there is no current King of France!). You wouldn’t know whether you could play piano or not before testing it. You wouldn’t know that Life of Pi was a movie about the Life of Pi without knowing that.
The difference is like the difference between physics and math:
physics isn’t useless um, knowledge of physical laws come a posteriori, whereas applications of those laws to situations are a priori knowledge. If you were Helen Keller, you would still be able to receive a priori knowledge, but not as much a posteriori knowledge. Well, Helen Keller did, but she’s HELEN KELLER and you’re not.
So, what does this have to do with meaning?
You see, whenever we experience literature, be it a book, a play, an anime, a long-winded incomprehensible puerile diatribe by racist prepubescent teenagers on YouTube, we experience literature. The knowledge we gain is a posteriori.
But after the experience, when you think about it in your brain, you are acquiring a priori knowledge. This is when you synthesize the experiences you’ve received to form a coherent (or incoherent if you’re like me) picture of the meaning you got from it.
But does this actually count as acquiring new knowledge? Here’s my question to you. Is it possible to acquire all your meanings of literature a priori? What would happen to somebody who never experienced others’ reactions to literature, but only the raw work of art itself?
What’s better? Meaning through self-reflection, or meaning through discussion? You can reflect on this or discuss it; just don’t be too mean.
Life of Pi was a pretty recent film. It’s about the life of a boy, Pi. You may have heard about it; it won the most (four) Academy Awards in 2012. You may have watched it. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers in this post. Or perhaps there is, if you’re planning to see the film; but if you haven’t yet, there’s a good chance you won’t. The spoilers don’t really spoil anything, since this essay isn’t about Life of Pi, and Life of Pi isn’t about its plot
It’s about its meaning.
I always thought that Life of Pi’s ending was a religious statement—just like believers, the novelist had to have faith in Pi, that his story was true. Although reason and psychology may steer one to believe otherwise, faith transcends both. People who value ‘order’ will automatically believe in the metaphoric story with ‘real’ humans—this denies a whole range of fantastic (in a bad way) possibilities, showing logic’s corrupting influence over the flexibility of faith. Furthermore, faith is unique to each person, as are meanings (interpretations!).
Yet, few seemed to agree. Most posts online simply followed the novelist’s connect-the-dots from ‘actual humans’ to their ‘animal representations’. So too did I think, but something was off, it was too obvious. I mean, in the film itself, the novelist explicitly STATES all of these connections! What kind of serious literary work TELLS you its meaning?
That exposes a preconception in our minds: that serious literary works’ meanings are to be found and not given. This is the notion that leads to ‘overanalysis’, when we ‘think too hard’ about something which has an ‘obvious meaning’.
But how do we find this meaning when nobody agrees? Does one meaning to any literary work actually exist? Do any meanings exist at all?
It’s late, but it’s still Tuesday. Any thoughts?
[Remember this poetry post from thirty years ago? No? Well, neither do I, nor do I remember writing this post, but apparently it was half-finished and I guess I never hit publish? I’ll write a more eloquent post with an actual argument later.]
Here’s the second poem I chose to recite, ‘Sweet Like a Crow’.
What do you think of after reading this poem? If you’re tempted to give some lofty appeal about the pointlessness of reality and the audio escapism that postmodern music offers, stop right there.
It’s about the poet’s niece’s HORRIBLE singing.
It is a thing. I procrastinated last week, because I was paralyzed from sickness.
That didn’t turn out too well. We (two people; the third disappeared) crammed our planning project until 1:00 last night. We presented it today without rehearsing, and it turned out OK. Unfortunately, we had to hand in our socials essay notes early—otherwise, it’d be unfair to the people who have to write their essays Monday instead of Thursday.
Unfortunately, I didn’t actually have any notes. But before I could go home and start taking them, we had to finish shooting and dubbing our French film project. It was due last Friday, but we got an extension because I was sick until today.
Filming should’ve taken until 6:00, but the cameraman got the wrong extension cord, and we had to go to his house to finish dubbing. Seven hours later…
…it was 10:00 when I got home. With an entire socials essay to finish researching (including outline, bibliography, and citations!), I wanted to get to work. Instead, I’m writing this post because I’m just too goddamn tired.
Tomorrow, I have to start and finish writing an entire English essay, and study for the science unit test I missed last week. Math midterms is on Thursday. Science Fair is due on Monday, and we haven’t started that either.
See, at this time, I always tell myself: stop procrastinating! Finish all of these as soon as they’re assigned! But whenever I get the ‘don’t procrastinate’ feeling… I’m too busy. I never feel busy when the due dates aren’t rushing up at me. All of these were assigned before winter break; yet, I didn’t start until now.
How do you guys deal with procrastination? Do you just roll with it anyways? I know many students just push everything to the last day, and we end up only mildly unscathed… but it surely isn’t the best way to go about it.
The whole point of this post was to tell you: save some homework-related ramblings I wrote and will publish tomorrow, I’m pretty much dead this week. Expect complete radio silence.
My planning teacher inexplicably bumped me up 0.8% to an A. My math teacher likewise augmented my academic standing 3% to an A.
Today’s topic is grade inflation. THIS IS GRADE INFLATION AND I’M LOVING IT