Against Interpretation And Other Essays

Against Interpretation And Other Essays-37
On the other hand, I fully agree that we often over-analyze and reach for interpretations without first experiencing a work.I absolutely hate the question: what is that about?Open any newspaper or go to a film blog or find an academic journal of film studies.

On the other hand, I fully agree that we often over-analyze and reach for interpretations without first experiencing a work.

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Hirsch reacted to the New Criticism as somehow being too loose.

If you’re unfamiliar academic literary criticism, there was a period of time starting around the early ’40s where literary theorists thought a text could stand on its own. This school of thought was roughly associated with something called “New Criticism.” The New Critics argued for doing close readings of a text, and this came to dominate the scene so much that we were all taught this as the only way to analyze literature.

She begins by lamenting for a time when we weren’t so inundated with theory.

She argues that we’ve become too obsessed with content.

Art is supposed to be messy, complicated, and uncomfortable at times.

The act of interpretation clears out the mess, simplifies it, and makes it comfortable.I think this is in some sense an overreaction or maybe even a straw man argument.For example, Hirsch, who values the author’s intent, would probably say that if the author intended for the work to be a purely visceral experience with no excess symbolism in it, then to read that symbolism in it would be an invalid interpretation. Some genres call for detailed, complicated interpretation and some call for no interpretation.In the seventh section of the essay, Sontag makes a startling prediction.From our vantage point, 50 years later, we can say she was correct.For an in-depth examination of Hirsch’s viewpoint, check out my article: Authorial Intent and Validity in Interpretation.In “Against Interpretation,” Sontag also reacts to the New Criticism, but in the opposite direction: the whole idea of interpretation is wrong-headed.Abstract art tries to be all form and no content in order to resist the destruction of interpretation.But artists shouldn’t have to flee from interpreters in order to escape.We often feel an overwhelming urge that works of art must be about something.How often do you hear: It is even possible that the artist intended certain objects to be interpreted as symbols, but the meaning is not what gives art its merit.


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