Gamers with Literary Theory
Jayhawker's comment on the front page got me thinking that discussion about things like postmodern deconstruction and literary theory since WW2 could become a pretty big tangent for an old Conference Call thread. So here we are!
Jayhawker was interested in the notion of the paratext (the information that sort of orbits around the text, like marketing materials, the book's dust-jacket and intro notes, comments made by the writer about the work — and, further out, stuff like how readers have received the work at different periods of time, including responses from censors). It's related to the theory of the socialized text, which comes from textual studies (studies of books as created objects). The socialized text is the published product of a process in which the writer arrives at a final draft, often working with friends and family to refine ideas, and generally working on that final draft with the publisher, an editor, perhaps a transcriptionist, etc. to produce a final set of copy that often imperfectly is type set and printed. Factors that come in during the process include things like human error, the price of printing, and the compensation scheme of the writer (Melville once added 50% to a book's length because he was getting paid by the word and needed to catch up on bills). It's ultimately a social process that gets loose ideas turned into physical copies on bookstore shelves, and that process is rife with error and cynicism.
Deconstruction, to start to answer Jay's second question, is largely about being cynical, and ripping apart motives, refusing to give writers the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't necessarily care what the author says they intended, but is perfectly willing to say that the author, intentionally or not, created a work that supports or tears down Big Ideas. Some of that gets a pretty decent overview in the Wiki article on Deconstruction.