[lit-ideas] A Griceian Bit of Misunderstanding

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2011 00:20:55 -0700



Well, no, misunderstanding isn't all-pervasive.  Did I say that?  I hope
not.  What I said or meant to say is that all language is potentially
ambiguous.  No text can be written in such a way as to avoid the possibility
of misunderstanding.  


If I make a political statement Eric Yost may understand me perfectly well
but Mike Geary may not.  He has a vested interest in misunderstanding me at
least to the extent of putting my words, conveying a political opinion
opposite to his own, in the worst possible light.  On the other hand if I
made an appreciative comment about the poetry of Sylvia Plath he might
understand me perfectly well.


In the current case, you in your Griceian persona, misunderstand me in such
a way as to deny my claim that I have invested "or not" with an exasperation
that could not be invested (by me) in the preceding, "well, are you going
out."  Or perhaps you are denying that my formulation has the power to
change the meaning of "are you going out" into an exasperated "Well, are you
going out or not?"  


While a reader may misread me, since all language is potentially ambiguous
(also see Harold Bloom's A Map of Misreading, and The Anxiety of Influence),
he is not entitled to say, "you are not permitted to mean any more than "Are
you going out?"   If he reads "Well, are you going out or not" to mean
merely "are you going out" then he misreads what I have written.


And could he be implying that I may have intended to invest "or not" with my
exasperation but I am not allowed to do so because of the various rules and
journal references that he invokes?  Can he martial rules sufficient to deny
me the right to mean something with "or not" that I could not mean with a
mere "Are you going out?"  If so he may be forcing me to alter my
personality; which may not be a bad thing, but as it is I occasionally get
exasperated with Ginger.  My repertoire could not convey my exasperation if
in this case I were denied "or not."  I could not say "are you going out"
and convey my exasperation.  Perhaps someone else could, perhaps JL could,
but I cannot, at least not now.  Maybe if I practiced over a period of time
I could, but as it is now I need my "or not" to convey it.  




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