I am often a pedantic fanboy when it comes to that theory called, alternately, “the death of the author” or “the intentional fallacy” (they’re a little different, but not in popular usage, which is mainly my concern).
I believe that evidence of the “intent” of a story’s author should be taken with a barrel of salt. I think it’s nearly impossible to divine intent from the substance of a story, and that, when any fragmentary evidence of intent exists, it mostly gets in the way of how you should be reading — you should allow yourself to make connections between stories and your own experience, author be damned. I think it’s fun to think about the author sometimes, but that, if you use the author as an excuse to berate people who don’t agree with your interpretations, you’re just an asshole.
Normally I’d be happy to argue about this. But not today — no, this is a post about Hyouka, and once again Hyouka avoids confirming anyone’s biases by pointing out that diversity of thought is perfectly okay — specifically, that different people read differently and different uses of fiction require different approaches.
We’re getting a better idea of how the characters differ as Hyouka progresses. The mystery film episodes certainly demonstrate how they differ as consumers of fiction. (Given that they’re the Classic Literature Club, I guess I shouldn’t be so amazed that they are all readers to begin with. But I digress.)
I really didn’t know how to describe Ibara last time. The library thing was grasping at straws, I’ll admit. She just seems so ordinary — which doesn’t have to obstruct writing, if you know what you’re doing:
Ibara is crucial because she’s intelligent, but not as intelligent as others: as a librarian she can gather information, but may not be able to piece it together. However, being the most ordinary of the group, she will also occasionally see things that the others, bound by their respective viewpoints, are unable to see. Ibara’s theory is limited by the amount of material she researches, and her own inability to correctly deduce what happened. Occasionally, she may have a breakthrough, as she is not unintelligent, but for the most part her theories, like the one she presents in Episode Four, will fall short.
Yes, that’s what I would’ve said! The second ending even reinforces it by casting Ibara as
Watson (Poirot, most likely, but I think my judgment is sound — think of it as a response to AJTheFourth’s Ibara-as-Watson, if you like).
I’ll at least stop blockquoting other blogs’ content long enough to add this: Watson isn’t that ordinary, is he? Holmes is the member of the duo who people remember. But he’s weird, so of course that’d be the case. Let’s not forget that Dr. Watson is a certified badass. He went to medical school. He went to war. He kicked the shit out of typhoid. He’s big and tough and he has an amazing porn stache. Watson’s good with a gun, he’s brave, and he’s no idiot — he just isn’t a savant. But that’s why he’s important. He’s not just a brain trapped in a human body. He understands passion.
Recall that scene in which Fukube compares himself (unfavorably) to Ibara.
He’s just a database, collecting as much information as he can without investing himself heavily in any of it. She’s actually capable of devoting herself to something. In that way she differs even from Chitanda, who can’t focus on any one thing for long. So there you go.
While we’re here, we might as well do Fukube. He’s easy, given that he reveals himself outright: he samples many genres. Moreover, he’s able to interpret things differently depending on circumstances, mood, or what have you, as we see when he confronts Oreki about the rope problem. He’s open and an omnifan. I don’t have much to say about this because it makes intuitive sense to me — that’s how I read. Maybe you’ve noticed. But I will note, for future reference, that the characters in this show may not always be what they think they are.
Chitanda’s an interesting case — she’s more concerned with people than with text. It’s because of that minor detail, actually, that this post exists.
It gets to the point of irrationality, I know, but every time someone talks about “what the author intended” or whether some interpretation is “meant” to be, my skin crawls a little. Stop it, will you? You’re holding yourself back! Let those interpretive powers loose and destroy the author once and for all! Unfortunately for me, it’s standard practice to talk about stories as if they’re written by someone.
Here’s one reason why I should keep my mouth shut: stories are written by someone, and sometimes it’s useful to acknowledge that. Interpretation is not the only literary activity. There’s history, where you’re trying to figure out what people did in the past, and you can’t allow your modern sensibilities to make wild leaps of logic about that. And there’s editing, the compilation of editions of texts. There do exist unmoored kinds of editing, but many editors, especially of the academic variety, attempt to capture or reconstruct texts as they existed back when. Sometimes you really are just trying to figure out what the author intended. There’s a distinction to be made between what the author intended to write and what the author intended to mean, but Barthes and the Wimsatt/Beardsley Duo knew that, and never meant to suggest that the author disintegrates when pen leaves hand for all practical purposes (wait, did I just…ah, hell).
Let me try to sum that up. Sometimes allowing a story to reach its full potential requires that you kill the author. But killing the author in all cases prevents a story from reaching its full potential. Something like that.
It should be noted that the Classic Literature Club wasn’t tasked with interpreting the movie anyway. However things turned out, of course they’d begin by doing what they were asked to do, i.e. pick up where “Hongou” left off.
Here’s the other thing: who cares if someone mentions the author? Maybe they like to think about the author when interpreting. So what? If some people limit themselves by anchoring themselves to authorial intent, maybe others blind themselves to fair interpretations of things by pointedly avoiding everything the author says. My attitude with regard to interpreting stories is precisely that, within the borders set by the raw text of a thing, everything goes. (Though the borders are important: if you go outside, there’s not much point in calling it “interpretation” anymore; you’re just writing fiction.)
Chitanda looks like she’s having so much fun. Would you really, for any reason, tell her to cut that shit out? I’ll repeat myself: if you use the [death of the] author as an excuse to berate people who don’t agree with your interpretations, you’re just an asshole.
tl;dr: Don’t be an asshole.
Now, there’s one more person in all those screencaps I’ve made you look at. The elephant in the room. What do we do about Oreki?
He always carries a book, it would seem; he reads idly, maybe trying to ignore everything around him. He hasn’t read many mystery novels. And that’s about all the substantial information we have about his literary habits.
Oreki is private about his reading — but that’s an important point, in its way. Reading is, first and foremost, a private activity. It gives you something to talk about, but you have to parse the text first, and that happens purely between the text and your brain. You’ll always imagine things a little differently from anyone else who reads that text. This isolation is precisely why it’s not so productive to fixate on what any one person thinks a text means. With such a high percentage of figurative language per pound, fiction is a poor communication medium.
By the same token, it’s not for us to tell each other how to read. Not until Human Instrumentality happens, anyway. The best we can do is entertain one another with accounts of our own reading.
That’s pretty good, though. I’ll take that. If you read in the first place, you already know how useful entertainment can be.