Monday, March 31, 2014

The Power of Interpretation

            All three of the critical essays that were assigned focused on one main concept – how African Americans are portrayed.  In Ann duCille’s “Phallus(ies) of interpretation: toward engendering the black critical “I,” the author states that there is not an essential black experience, an absolute historical truth, and that art absolutely must tell the truth.  She asks readers to reflect on our own gender, race, age, and more in order to recognize the lenses in which we read and analyze texts such as Walker’s The Color Purple.  While one person may read the novel as depicting antagonistic male characters, another may read the novel as depicting empowered female characters.  It’s all up to each individual’s interpretation of the work.
            In Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s “The Black Person in Art: How Should S/he Be Portrayed? (Part II),” the author reiterates and responds to W.E.B. DuBois’s question of how anyone should be portrayed in art.  He responds that the artist should portray his/her subject as truthfully as s/he interprets the subject.  While the artist may truthfully interpret the subject in one way, the viewer may interpret the subject in a different way, according to their version of truth.  Again, one person’s interpretation is not any more right and true than another’s interpretation of the same work.
            In Trudier Harris’s “On The Color Purple, Stereotypes, and Silence,” the author interprets Walker’s novel as negatively stereotyping African Americans.  She depicts the men negatively and Celie as a submissive and static character, which contrasts duCille’s interpretation of the men in the novel as the root of society’s problems.  Harris is more concerned that people believe that Walker’s depiction of African Americans is considered the truth to those that read the novel rather than one type.  She believes that this interpretation by readers is more danger than the contents of the novel itself.  She, like duCille and Gates, believes that interpretation is a powerful force that can positively or negatively shape society’s opinions of a subject, such as the African American community.

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