This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Theory of meaning in literature

The poverty of the English language with respect to things transcendent is perhaps to blame for the rise of such outlandish literary theories that suggest that the true meaning of a text is given to it by the reader. We cannot help but see this as evidence that these theorists have lost faith in the ability of their own language to convey meaning, and in the presence of this realization have written much nonsense. In contrast, a language geared toward metaphysics could never present such problems, and the individual who utilizes it could never arrive at such a theory because for him the words he speaks convey precisely what they are intended to convey. When, as is often the case, the meaning of a profound concept is conveyed only partially, he understands this ahead of time and so his faith in the terms themselves is not undermined. He simply conveys the part he wishes, and if he needs to convey another part, other terms likely exist in his language which will allow him to do so. We mention again the example of the word ‘love’ used in the gospel. The author of that gospel, if moved by the spirit he was, employed the terms he meant to employ, and it is to the detriment of the English-speaker that he does not have at his disposal a language capable of receiving what was expressed. And it is further to the detriment of the English-speaker that his way of thinking drives him away from the one solution to this problem–humble submission to an authorized interpreter of the scripture in question. In fact, his proclivity for individualism, of which ‘private interpretation’ is but one aspect, ensures that he will only increase the distance between himself and the truth he desires, the more he tries to get at it by his own means.

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