I’ve been thinking about:
- Umberto Eco’s Open Work or in the original Italian, Opera Aperata. The idea here, is that all works are in a sense open, in that they are subjective ontological experiences that the reader imbues with meaning that the writer never intended. Also: some works are more open the others. For example, Eco says this of Kafka:
a world of ambiguity, both in the negative sense that directional centers are missing and in positive sense, because values and dogma are constantly being placed in question
- It’s the idea of the work as a question, not an answer, and that answers are supplied externally, and that the reader in a way co-creates this work with the writer. This freedom can be exhilarating and frightening. Freedom can also be (as it is in all aspects of life) confusing, confounding, and devouring, it can overwhelm and subsume the person not ready for it.
- I remember reading somewhere (but I can’t find the link to the blog post) that this was a direct retaliation to the Italian thinkers and critics who were under the old Fascist regime. They wanted Authorial intent above all else, stark traditional realism above all else. The author was, in a way, a dictator. The reader was without choice.
- In a way this idea of freedom in a Sartre sense can be a very good explanation as to why a lot of people feel attacked, feel offended, feel looked down upon in a way that they say confuses them. They act like it’s the writer doing something for the writer, that it’s a way of showing off, etc, when really a more complex, nuanced and open work is actually something that benefits the reader more than the writer.
- Also thinking of 8 1/2, a great film that I think is so complex and nuanced a lot of people will see it as that. But it’s not. There are a lot of things going on, but it all connects, comes together, makes perfect sense. I think the writer/director Fellini knew that it would receive this sort of criticism, and has characters that say something along this lines throughout the movie.
- Another thought: Gruppo 63, aka Neo Vanguardia- an art/fiction/critical/film movement that was formed out of these two works, using their ideas and constructs as a basis to create something that is new, interesting, something that is an open work.
- It’s interesting that I’m falling down the rabbit hole in these ideas now, since I’ve had similar ideas for the last five years or so. I would call these works complex, or complicated, or full of holes for the reader to fill. But in the end, Open sounds best, Open is most important.
- Of course, the usual argument against such an idea is that such works are self-indulgent, or eventually descend into gibberish, or is too much for the reader to understand. That the writer is showing off, and intentionally losing the reader. But this doesn’t make sense, a writer of an open work is not trying to confuse the reader, but instead trying to give the reader more freedom within the work, making it a collaboration of sorts.
- As Barthes says, the Author is Dead.
- If an author, after a work is finished, considers himself dead, then how is he doing this for himself, for his own pleasure? If he considers his role in fiction post-creation to be that of a corpse, how can he be said to be doing this to show off? To be tricky on purpose, condescending, etc? This argument makes no sense.
- Maybe authors are like ghosts, haunting a work. Vague shadows afterwards.
- Side note: in a way, fanfiction is a part of this. It’s about readers taking complete control of a work.
- More thoughts later.