Presentation on theme: "Lit 101 students arm the barricades (cartoon ‘borrowed’ from Lalo Alcaraz, Latino U.S.A.)"— Presentation transcript:
Lit 101 students arm the barricades (cartoon ‘borrowed’ from Lalo Alcaraz, Latino U.S.A.)
Questions/assumptions behind interpretive practice Where does meaning come from? (author, text, reader... some combination thereof?) If you’re not satisfied with considering only one of these elements, then how do one or more of these elements fit together in a totality at a given moment? Since every moment (including our own) is historically-culturally specific, how do you talk adequately about that specificity? Do you simply see History as a “context,” a period? If so, don’t you remove yourself far from that context?
Interpretive choice? Or dead-end?
How can we talk about all in relation? Some theory of the “real,” the social... (Jameson will say: the historical)
Jameson’s main points 1.Interpretation is not a question of choosing from a variety of (formulaic) options, each of which will produce a “reading.” He calls this view “typologizing” or “allegorical” 2.However, Marxist critics have clung to a formulaic, typologizing form of interpretation, which springs from making the mode of production (base) as an allegory of every cultural phenomenon (part of superstructure) 3.If we could form a better model of causality, and a more diachronic idea of historical periods, we could understand the relation of a text to its “period” in a much more supple way 4.We repress the working of History within ourselves, in the present moment
from Song of Solomon, chapter 4 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, Behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil... Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an arsenal… Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies.... Come with me from Lebanon, my bride;... Depart from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.
‘Base’ and ‘Superstructure’: traditional models of causality Base: mode of production (the whole system, from tech to social class arrangements) Superstructure: institutions that follow from base Political forms Family/social relations Cultural expressions/ideology cause
OR: plinth and statue BASE Mode of production The state, law, religion, family, Social customs, literature, art, ideology, etc.
Jameson’s model, reader 179 HISTORY: the particulars of a mode of production as developed in a specific time and place culture ideology law Politics/state Class relations ‘forces’ of production (tech, nat resources)
Causality and interpretation “The idea is, in other words, that if interpretation in terms of expresssive causality [“vulgar” Marxism] or of allegorical master narratives [template: Christian, Oedipal, etc.] remains a constant temptation, that is because such master narratives have inscribed themselves in the texts as well as our thinking about them... “
What does Jameson mean by “always historicize” and that everything is historical? NOT antiquarianism (“those cobwebs of topical allusion…that dry and intolerable chitinous murmur of footnotes”) NOT simple “causal” mechanism NOT an allegory “[That] History is not a text, not a narrative, master or otherwise, but that, as an absent cause, it is inaccessible to us except in textual form, and that our approach to it and to the Real itself necessarily passes through its prior textualization, its narrativization in the political unconscious” [201 right]
Hermeneutic: a process or mode of interpretation (EX: “Biblical hermeneutic”) Synchronic: taking place at a single point or period in time (EX: you reading this now) Diachronic: taking place across moments in time (EX: the relationship between you and Shakespeare) Mediation: what governs a relationship between one thing and another (EX: a translator mediates your reading of Dante; money or power mediates social relations)
Against the ‘historical causality’ model Jameson’s contribution: several modes of production can be present at once, so you can’t “reduce” a text to its moment’s worldview Focus on “that moment in which the coexistence of various modes of production becomes visibly antagonistic, their contradictions moving to the very center of political, social, and historical life” (caveat: that doesn’t mean we just look at “transition moments”--it’s always a transition moment)
How literary form is historical “The individual text or cultural artifact (with its appearance of autonomy... ) is here restructured as a field of force in which the dynamics of sign systems of several distinct modes of production can be registered and apprehended. These new dynamics... make up what can be termed the ideology of form.... At this level “form” is apprehended as content.”
Benjamin and 19th C Paris: an example of History as an “absent cause” in interpretation NEW SPACES IN MOMENT OF CULTURAL REVOLUTION: the arcade, the panorama, the exposition, the interior, the streets of the flaneur, the barricade
The arcade: a covered passage within the city
Barricaded street during the Paris Commune, 1871