The Text is plural. This does not mean just that is has several meanings, but rather that it achieves plurality of meaning, an irreducible plurality. The Text is not coexistence of meanings but passage, traversal; thus it answers not to an interpretation, liberal though it may be, but to an explosion, a dissemination. The Text’s plurality does not depend on the ambiguity of its contents, but rather on what could be called the stereographic plurality of the signifiers that weave it (etymologically the text is a cloth; textus, from which text derives, means “woven”).

Roland Barthes, From Work to Text (via elucipher)

This bullshit always drove me nuts in English Lit.  What the man is saying is that through the magic of language and neurology, a text is reproduced in the mind of each person who reads it (or watches, listens, etc.).  

But the text as it’s laid out on paper (or the computer screen) is in fact (as we have seen in fandom) an incomplete object.  It’s a sketch of a world, characters, and plot.  When we read it, we recreate it in our minds, but we also finish the work, using our own knowledge, experiences and desires to fill in the gaps.

This makes the finished work in our minds different for each person.  So in reality, for any given printed work, there are as many texts for it as there are readers.  This is why you ultimately can’t claim an interpretation is wrong (within certain constraints of fundamental fact, of course; Hamlet is not about Othello)—because the person is, most of the time, interpreting their copy of the text, not yours.

Freaking Barthes.  The reason you have to pay $1500 for a college English course is to make it worth the instructor’s while to wade through that incomprehensible muck for what he’s actually trying to say.

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