– I am not a symbol-hunter myself, and I think talking about intentional symbolism, unless you are dealing with an allegory, is a waste of time. But I do agree with Asimov that’s its impossible to avoid unconscious symbolism, and I like what Ellison says about readers finding symbols being an indication that their mind is collaborating with the author’s work. I’ve said this before – there is a social element to writing that we do not talk about enough. “Composition” is a solitary activity, but it is only one component of what I think of as “writing.” Writing begins when you have an idea and doesn’t end until you have someone reading the finished piece. That is what I think.
You always wondered if your college lit professor was just making crap up.
Turns out, maybe they were.
This article from The Paris Review offers a revealing take by many famous authors on how much symbolism played a part in their work.
Their comments were prompted by a letter from a 16-year-old Bruce McCallister in 1963. He was tired of the constant find-the-symbolism game in English class, so he took it upon himself to ask them what the big deal was with symbolism.
He mailed a simple four-question survey to more than 150 novelists. About half of them responded. The responses were varied, but most of the authors seemed to think symbolism is overanalyzed. Their comments were awesome:
The survey included the following questions:
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