Does author intent matter? Does author intent matter?

Author intent is an interesting thing. When it comes to an academic approach to literature, it is essential to account for time, place, location, and political affiliation. Possibly their preferred cocktail. But intent? There are, of course, opinion pieces and persuasion pieces and vicious critics. But when we move into the realm of fiction, author intent may not be as important as some make it out to be.

People construct meaning around fiction. Fiction both mirrors and satires and glorifies every day life. People can imagine themselves as far more complex, or a bit simpler, and can make parallels between the fictional and factual. Just look at superhero fiction. There is a well established correlation between the generational big scare and how we imagine our superheroes. Spiderman’s spider moving from radioactive to genetically modified to carrying some sort of pseudo science viral vector. We aren’t obsessing over nuclear power as much, but we can now manipulate the literal instructions for existence. I can’t wait to see what lab grown meat is going to do.

So life and fiction are related. But when it comes to making those connections, does it matter if the author intended that those blue curtains symbolized depression? Or that one character was meant to distract the reader’s sympathies? Maybe what the reader draws from fiction is all that matters. The individual experience of the novel. But I am really not sure. Thoughts?