‘In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art’. Discuss ways of approaching a text by referring to Susan Sontag’s ‘Against Interpretation’.
There are many ways of approaching a text and interpretation is the most important and controversial way to explore a text. A hermeneutics and an erotics of art, which are the types of interpretation, will be explored in this essay to discuss ways of approaching a text. Besides, ‘Against Interpretation’ will be a main reference in this essay. ‘In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art’ is the famous and controversial statement which suggested by Susan Sontag and it will be the blueprint of this essay and the direction of the discussion will follow it. In the first part, the interpretation theory of hermeneutics will be discussed. In the second part, the problem of hermeneutics, which was discussed in ‘Against Interpretation’, will be explored and it is also the bridge to connect the first part and the third part (An erotics of art).
Hermeneutics is one of the most ancient interpretation theories in the world and many scholars are influenced by it even today. Hermeneutics is come from the Greek word 'Ερμηνεύς which means interpreter. 'Ερμηνεύς is related to the Greek god called Hermes. In Greek myth, he is an interpreter and his job is responsible for distributing messages to the gods. The original meaning of it is the process of translation. Hermeneutics is one of the interpretation theories and it is a method to understand and classify the meanings of texts. In hermeneutics, the manifest content(all observable phenomena) need to be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning(the latent content) It focus on analyze the content to find the ‘true’ meanings in order to approach a text. It is also the doctrines of Marx and Freud. Besides, it also proclaims that it is the most objective way to approach a text. It is including the background of the authors, grammar, style, structure and so on in order to leads people understand the inner life (content) of text. For discussing hermeneutics deeply, history is an essential element.
In early time, hermeneutics was used in bible study and it called biblical hermeneutics. The Jewish Rabbis and the Church Fathers used different ways to interpret the content in the bible for finding deeper meanings behind the words and the messages from the God. Afterword, it not only used to interpret bible, it also used in the interpretation of other texts such as literatures and arts. In Enlightenment, the texts were interpreted in a new way in order to cater the demand of “modern” world. Although the method of interpretation was changed, it was also concern of exploring the content. Besides, the traditional Greek theory of art was affected by Hermeneutics as well. For example: the famous scholars named Plat and Aristotle also focus on the content (Is it true? Is it useful?) when they analyzed art works. The historical development leads hermeneutics becomes the most important and common interpretation way to approach the texts.
The problems of hermeneutics
Susan Sontage posed several interpretation problems in the 60s America in ‘Against interpretation’ and she considered the interpretation should be changed. She did not agree with the interpretation way of Marx and Freud which is the elaboration of hermeneutics. She thought this interpretation method (digging the text to find a sub-text which is the true one) is “the revenge of the intellect upon art” and it is meaningless as it is ‘impoverish, to deplete the world- in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings”.’ Human being fear some things which are unknown because they do not know how to deal with these things. Under the nature of human being, real art will make us nervous so interpretation is the best method to tame the work of art and make them manageable and conformable. Many scholars used the interpretation way of Marx and Freud to approach a...
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