Presentation on theme: "The Interpretation Trap Unnamed and Unspoken in The Turn of the Screw."— Presentation transcript:
The Interpretation Trap Unnamed and Unspoken in The Turn of the Screw
“The story won’t tell…” Acts of Reading/Interpreting are central to the plot of this text – Full of texts: letters, the ghosts, the children – All about acts of “reading”: observation, interpretation of surfaces and gestures, manners, expressions, figures, history – But, “the story won’t tell…”
“The story won’t tell…” Back to Classic Realism – In its “hierarchy of voices” and “closure” the CR text attempts to make interpretation into a matter of “common sense.” – Belsey – this narrative form is a “trap” of sorts. It closes down the actual plurality of meaning operating in any instance of language. – Ideology Critique – functions as a way of resisting the modes of “common sense” interpretation that structure meaning in ideological systems of difference.
“The story won’t tell…” In TotS, we have lots of signifiers (appearances and surfaces that can be read), but not a lot of signifieds (essential, concrete truths that follow from those signifiers). Another way of thinking about this is to view TotS as a failed detective story – where the investigation fails to describe the truth of the situation or crime where we are somehow positive that a crime has occurred. Draws our attention to (failed) acts of reading.
“The story won’t tell…” In TotS, interpretation itself is presented as “a trap” and connected to violence.
“The story won’t tell…” “…It was the dead silence of our long gaze at such close quarters that gave the whole horror, huge as it was, its only home of the unnatural. If I had met a murderer in such a place and at such an hour we still at least would have spoken. Something would have passed in life, between us; if nothing had passed one of us would have moved. I can’t express what followed it save by saying that the silence itself – which was indeed in a manner an attestation of my strength – became the element into which I saw the figure disappear…” (40).
“The story won’t tell…” “I don’t mean that they had their tongues in their cheeks or did anything vulgar, for that was not one of their dangers: I do mean, on the other hand, that the element of the unnamed and the untouched became, between us, greater than any other, and that so much avoidance couldn’t have been made successful without a great deal of tacit arrangement. It was as if, at moments, we were perpetually coming into sight of subjects before which we must stop short… Forbidden ground was the question of the return of the dead in general and of whatever, in especial, might survive, for memory, of friends little children had lost” (49).
“The story won’t tell…” In TotS, interpretation itself is presented as “a trap” and connected to violence. – The ghosts are mute – They give no account of themselves and there is no story to tell about them – They also disrupt any act of interpretation – their plural, undecidable meaning “haunts” the governesses ability to interpret her more concrete circumstances and Miles’ death
TToS as an Interpretive “Trap” Every signifier of incrimination or corruption is unstable – The children’s silence is evidence of both their innocence and their conspiracy – Quint crosses class boundaries of authority (like the governess?) – Ms. Jessel falls in love with a person outside her station (like the governess?) Text calls attention to interpretation as an unstable act
TToS as an Interpretive “Trap” CLOSURE: What happens at the end of the novel? – What are all the different ways of constructing the meaning of the ending?
Last Day I hope this class has given you a variety of ways to approach a text – a variety of types of claims you can make. – Formal: How is this text constructed in terms of writing conventions and strategies? How does it “work” and why? – Ideology Critique: What social ideologies are apparent in the construction of the texts meaning? What does this tell us about the historical moment it is participating in?
Last Day FALL: Writing WINTER: Reading – Formal analysis Figurative language, metrics, sound, structure, narrative temporality, experimental language use – Ideology Critique Systems of difference, contradiction, closure SPRING: Let’s do the work!