My MA thesis was on ambiguity in literary texts. I proposed that ambiguity(and I do not mean obscurity and lack of clarity, simply the capacity for being understood in more than one way) is at the heart of literature. Unlike any other form of writing (weather reports, legal briefs, reportage, etc) it is actually necessary to a literary text, something we want. Without an open avenue for the reader within the text, there is no way for the reader to find a personal place in it. I asked two questions: Does a text have meaning without a reader? Is a text changed by the readers who read it? If we can accept that, without reading it, a text is only an object without a reader, then we can say that a reader changes the text by reading it. If a reader is what gives it meaning, then the reader has affected the text. Think of books you have read and how they change when you reread them. Think of stories you have written and how they change when you reread them.
People make a distinction between author and reader. As authors, we know that as we put words on a page, they come forth and we direct them, but often are directed by them. We interpret what we write and then, when we reread, we may change our minds. Can we really say were we wrong before and right now? Or do we, as readers of our own words, see something different when we revisit our own words?
It is easy to think about rereading and reinterpreting other works, but as writers, we must consider that we, too, come back to our own texts as readers and find new meaning. With every experience, we change. It makes sense to see how we, with those experiences, see new things when we reread.
Ambiguity allows for texts to live throughout history, be reread as we grow older, and loved by different generations. For me, I rarely feel that someone else’s interpretation of my work, if coming from a careful reading, is wrong. If I write something poorly or if someone misreads a name or a section of a chapter and goes off in a wrong direction, that is one thing. But someone breathing new ideas and life into a story, mine or others’, makes for a new and exciting journey through that story. The reader heads into the world of the story with different eyes, each time. That is the magic of reading. That is what makes the reader and the author (the initial reader) part of the living text.