10-second review: Failure to grasp the meaning. Stock responses. Happiness binding. Critical predispositions. Irrelevant associations. Search for certainty.
Title: “Sources of Difficulty in Literary Interpretation.” James R. Squire. [No Source] [No Date], 37-49.
Summary: 52 adolescents read four short stories: “However, all six of the barriers to sound interpretation are sufficiently prevalent in the transcripts to justify the assumption that such difficulties must be rather widespread if these 52 subjects are in any way representative of readers in this age group.” p. 49.
Six Sources of Misinterpretation in Reading Four Short Stories:
1. Fail to grasp obvious meanings. [One of my teachers began discussions by asking, “What does the story say?”]
2. Stock responses: Assumes from stereotyped view of experience that certain things are true in life and therefore any deviation cannot be true in the story: Good looking guys have good looking girls. When they argue, adults are usually wrong and teenagers are usually right.
3. Happiness bound: Cannot accept an ending that is not happy. Will not accept an unhappy interpretation.
4. Critical predisposition: Questions probability of the situation. “A landlord would not act like that.”
5. Irrelevant associations. Distracted by references to situations the students have experienced, preoccupied by memories of experiences which are not significant to the total meaning of the short story.
Rush to Judgment
6. Search for certainty. Pre-judge the conclusion without waiting for the entire story to be completed, reflected upon and discussed.
Comment: Need to clarify the meaning of each category of misinterpretation. Could produce a good discussion about the interpretation of literature by the students.
Based on IA Richards’ Practical Criticism. Richards used poetry. Squire used short stories. RayS.