As we move into an even more challenging phase of the class, reading about the "author," "intention," the reader" or "ideology," it might be useful to talk about the inherent difficulty of some of these terms. How do we justify the work we must put into sorting them out?

As we read about the contrary definitions, or even about the history of contested meanings, for a term like the "author" -- it's possible to give in frustration. Perhaps, we think, there are so many definitions that none make sense. Or, this concept is inherently unstable, so it cannot be mastered. Or, it changes every decade, so I might as well simply chose my own definition.

In a way, though, this parsing of the difficult histories and complex, sometimes conflicting definitions of a term is a perfect illustration of what good reading must do.

When we read a poem, in which the word "flower" appears, we quickly run through a number of possible interpretations. Is it a noun or a verb? Is it literal or metaphorical? Does it connote beauty, death, birth, nature ...?

Of course, the fact that thinkers over time might have recourse to the same word "author" which yet can mean divergent things, creates some problems of ambiguity or potentials for misunderstanding. Yet the process of reading is all about coming to resolve those questions (at least temporarily, at least for this time, place, and context.)

In a few weeks, we'll read the essay on "Unconscious." I love the way this essay begins, because the author writes about how the trouble begins with the very title of his piece. Should it be "The Unconscious" (a noun, a thing) or "Unconscious" (describing other things or actions)?

Can we agree then that it's no longer possible to say "THE author" as if it is an always has been a stable concept which we all understand? If so, then we've begun to theorize and historicise.