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Notes Towards Day 26: Filling Our Interpretation Toolbox

mlord's picture

All gather in Mark's room....

I. 11:25-11:40 Anne reviews the process for completing your portfolios

II. 11:40-12:05: Filling the "interpretation toolbox" we've assembled together this semester-->
what are all the ways we've gathered, for reading, writing, and interpreting the world…?
What have we learned about how to use these tools in our academic and living work-and-play?

III.  12:05-12:30: Reading Susan Sontag's "On Interpretation":
Today...the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling....the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.

Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world--in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.' It is to turn the world into this world. ('This world'! As if there were any other.)

The world, our world, is depleted, impoverished enough. Away with all duplicates of it, until we again experience more immediately what we have.

In most modern instances, interpretation amounts to the philistine refusal to leave the work of art alone. Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, comformable....

What the pure, untranslatable, sensuous immediacy of some...images....It is always the case that interpretation...indicates a dissatisfaction (conscious or unconscious) with the work, a wish to replace it by something else.

Interpretation...violates art. It makes art into an article for use, for arrangement into a mental scheme of categories....a great deal of today's art may be understood as motivated by a flight from interpretation....

Interpretation takes the sensory experience of the work of art for granted, and proceeds from there. This cannot be taken for granted, now....Ours is a culture based on...a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life--its material plentitude, its sheer crowdedness--conjoin to dull our sensory faculties...

What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more.

IV. Homework:
By midnight tomorrow, post a response to Sontag's essay,
by using one of tools from the "toolbox" we made visible on the board.

Also, imagine: you have been registered for an independent study, "Play in the City II."
Your first assignment is Sontag's essay. What excursion-or-activity will you assign yourself,
to put this theory into action? Please bring this plan to class with you.

As inspiration, see also Kristin Hohenadel. City Maps that Orient You Better Than Google Can.
Perhaps also James Elkins, The Ivory Tower of Tearlessness.

V. 12:30-12:45 End-of-semester course evaluations