Making Allegorical Onion soup…

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As a writer I love it when someone reads the text I’ve written and responds to me with a new or variation of what I came up with. The interaction of the conversation and the ability to do follow on and additional questions makes it a really fun thing. It is also the intent of writing such as a blog or a book or anything written by one person and shared. As a writer I love it when people peel the onion. I however do not like it when people take the allegorical onion, smash it and try to make Allegorical Onion soup.

One voice and one reader resulting in that disconnected conversation. Now as a software architect I listen for voices. When I read documents that have multiples voice in them I try to avoid creating a linkage between the voices. Different people have different goals when they write.

Yesterday I talked about the problem of taking multiple voices and creating a single voice. It got me thinking yesterday about why someone would do that. Why would you assume that taking multiple voices and assigning a single message to them is even viable?

The easy answer to the question is arrogance (I am right). But that isn’t the only answer you can derive from the action. In fact there are a number of reasons why someone would create a context where there probably isn’t one.

It stems from the need for meaning. Which isn’t arrogance and in the end is fairly common. All of us look at a series of questions and answers and we seek some meaning to the paper. We ascribe more to the document than was probably ever there. I say probably because sometimes when there are multiple authors they are working together. They still have a less unified intent than a single voice does but there is some unified intent.

I started applying some of the things I’ve been learning about OODA loops to this concept. What is the orientation that would allow for the observation of meaning.

The why of reading. Reading was taught the same way in this country for many years. In the 1980’s a couple of new schools of reading were starting to catch on. For a long time I was a huge fan of whole language reading. Whole language is closer to the way I write and think so it worked for me (spelling is deemphasized a little in the whole language model). Frankly its been so many years I no longer even recall what the other model was.

Reality being that reading was taught for many years as seeking meaning. The SAT and other college entrance exams encouraged reading everything for the hidden meaning. Yesterday I talked about the allegorical levels of Moby Dick. The thing about allegorical levels and meanings beyond meanings beyond meanings in the end is that they are speculation. No one sat Melville down and scene by scene in his book walked through the deeper meanings. But we are taught to do that to everything we read.

What if Ezra Pound simply meant he saw a red wheelbarrow in the garden? It is open to interpretation what he meant. It’s a great poem by the way. The point being that any one author should have their work evaluated for their meaning. I would never consider Pound’s wheelbarrow as an allegorical layer of Melville’s Moby Dick. They lived about 60 years apart and one is a poem and the other a book.

Plus the allegorical layers of a poem are a shorter conversation. If you take each author sentence by sentence besides driving yourself crazy you will end up arguing about what the word is means.

This brings me neatly back to my point of yesterday given a document with multiple authors its critical that you consider the voice and meaning of each author individually before assigning an overall meaning.

People write to convey meaning. But each person conveys their meaning.

Yay though I walk through the valley of literature. I will not jump to conclusions.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.