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Fiction was utterly destroyed for me ... when I was examined on finding deep meanings where the author may not have even intended or wanted

Post-structuralism[1] has its place, and I'm a big fan of it now, but I also hated having it pushed on me in high-school literature lessons -- that seems to be a very common experience, and one that really can damage people's enjoyment of fiction thereafter.

I'm not sure whether the problem's one of presentation ("find the meaning! it can be anything you like!"; "er, say wot, miss?"), or whether the average teenager just doesn't have the right intellectual frame to really appreciate the idea "meaning is a product of the interaction between text and reader, not a product of the text alone".

Back in high-school, I overcame my frustration at the perceived arbitrariness by approaching the task ironically -- "sod it, I'm gonna pick the most outlandish reading I can think of". The teachers seemed to think the results were great, which I found pretty amusing.

[1] I refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-structuralism#Destabilized... in particular.

Interesting. I suppose English teachers like total textbook responses to texts (things they tell their students to say) or totally outlandish stuff to shake them from monotony. I remember creating essays that were great (at least to me) but not scoring particularly well, I also used to think if the author of a text would be marked on response to that text, they'd fair pretty poorly too. It really is a long time ago. I read things my old English teachers write now in school magazines and they are hardly impressive.

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