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Meaning in literature
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2010 (English)In: Neohelicon, ISSN 0324-4652, E-ISSN 1588-2810, Vol. 37, no 2, 433-439 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The concept of meaning is often treated as if it were a unitary concept, also when it is used about literature. Yet literary meaning is not all of a kind, and hence one cannot generalize about its overall characteristics. What is commonly called meaning in literature comprises a number of separate phenomena. A simple distinction between linguistic meaning, applicatory meaning, and critical meaning is introduced with the help of a literary example, Edith Södergran’s poem “My Childhood Trees” (“Min barndoms träd”, 1922). The dangers of treating literary meaning as a homogeneous phenomenon are then illustrated by considering the standpoints of two theorists: Jonathan Culler, who describes literary meaning as indeterminate, and Robert Stecker, who portrays it as determinate. In reality, linguistic meaning will have to be understood as being determinate, applicatory meaning as indeterminate, and critical meaning, existing in many varieties, as sometimes the one, sometimes the other. Problems analogous to those besetting the concept of meaning also arise in connection with the critical use of several other key literary-theoretical notions, such as “literature”, “text”, “form”, and “genre”.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Verlag , 2010. Vol. 37, no 2, 433-439 p.
Keyword [en]
Meaning, literary meaning, literary interpretation, Jonathan Culler, Robert Stecker
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-38405DOI: 10.1007/s11059-010-0069-2ISI: 000290557100009OAI: diva2:377129
Available from: 2010-12-13 Created: 2010-12-13 Last updated: 2011-10-11Bibliographically approved

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Pettersson, Anders
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