Intentional and symptomatic readings on “The Yellow Wallpaper”
On starting my reading on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, I found it very amusing to understand the feeling of the narrator, whose name is revealed as Jane at the very end of the story. She is constantly restricted in many ways by her husband John, yet many of her description describes him as “caring” and “loving” even though he disappoints her in most of her wants. The contradiction, I suspected, was due to that the authorial intention is not projected on the spot, and that through interpreting the story with intentional reading and symptomatic reading different ideology may be revealed respectively. I therefore decided to study the distinction between the two ways of interpreting narrative with this text. In The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, H. Porter Abbott put much emphasis on the concept of the implied author, the “sensibility (that combination of feeling, intelligence, knowledge, and opinion) that ‘accounts for’ the narrative” (84), in discussing interpretations of narratives. As he described intentional readings, he depicted that “the ideas and judgments that we infer from the narrative are understood to be keeping with a sensibility that intended these effects.” (102) And he defined that when doing symptomatic reading “you are explicitly arguing that yours is an interpretation that the implied author would not agree with, but you are also maintaining that this is what is psychologically and culturally significant about the novel.” (104) This is a good point to base the distinction between the two ways of reading, and perhaps the most significant one: whether the interpretation is attributing to the authorial intention or not. Another distinction could be how paratext-dependent the reading is (Abbott, 106), but even though symptomatic readings often require much more paratextual material to support their argument, intentional readings could establish...
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