Monday, March 31, 2014

Dispelling the Notion of the Universal Truth

Portrayal plays a huge role in all three critical essays we’ve read for today.  Whether it’s positive, negative, fictitious, or truthful, they way we portray ourselves and others is important.  As seen in all three essays, the way we portray our own truths can often be misconstrued by others.  Knowing this, it is important to understand that there is no one, universal truth, and that all portrayals, no matter how praiseworthy or derogatory, expresses someone’s sense of reality.  

In her essay, Phallus(ies) of interpretation: toward engendering the black critical “I”, Ann duCille disproves the claim “(1) that there is an essential black experience; (2) that there is an absolute historical truth; (3) that art absolutely must tell the truth...” (2).  Responding to criticism that black, female writers often receive for depicting incredibly harsh and/or abusive black, male characters, duCille calls for critical self reflection.  Unless readers, whether they be male or female, black or white, young or old, can recognize their own biases when studying a text, they will never come to recognize the beauty and value of different truths.  From different lenses, the same text can be viewed as a work of female empowerment or male castration, a piece about white dominance or black subordination.  Whatever the viewpoint, it is necessary to understand that each holds truth, perhaps not for all, but for many.  

Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s study on how black men and women should be portrayed in art, asks questions originally posed by W.E.B Du Bois  in 1926.  One response to these questions is, “How should any person be portrayed in art?  Truthfully as the artist sees him/her “truthfully” (330).  This double sense of truth replicates the process of interpretation itself.  In seeing something, I can process it in accordance with what I consider to be true.  But in relaying this truth to others, they may analyze it to fit with their own realities.  No matter how we portray something, it is important to remember that our portrayals are not necessarily equivalent to everyone’s truths.    

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