Reader as Interpreter

The reading for today poses an interesting theory that questions not only the capacity of authorship but more importantly, of the reader. To quote TT quoting Friedrich Nietzche, “facts… do not exist, only interpretations.” While one may blindly assume reading is nothing more than a means of consumption, it is ignorant to assume that anything can be consumed without interpretation; or transformation. In the reading, the writer makes many notions to conclude that language is completely arbitrary, having no “natural” or “mystical” origin connecting it the signifier to the signified. While this is true, and the only thing that connects English to Latin or any other language is because it has been replicated,  language is our way of communicating our inner thoughts and feelings about the world around us. Language is a tool we use to communicate ideas and because language is somewhat restricting, these thoughts and ideas can be interpreted differently depending on the person reading of them. Social and cultural changes, personal experiences, what makes a person “unique” ultimately decides how they can interpret given information. Therefore, even if an author has a concrete purpose for their writing, it cannot totally and invariably be fathomed by a reader without implicit biases interpreting things. Just as the contexts in which something like Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of the American Slave changes it’s meaning due to political and cultural advances, the contexts in which any individual reads anything it’s meaning changes due to their own personal experience.

One Response to Reader as Interpreter

  1. Prof VZ January 24, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    In a way, the need for interpretation, and the inevitability of ambiguity, seem to open up space for what we think of as uniqueness rather than limit it. If every sign was secured by a signified, if ever sentence we uttered conveyed an iron-clad and non-negotiable thought, the world–and the people in it–would be much less interesting, and much less unique. I understand that these authors want to disabuse their readers of a naive sense of unique self-hood, but when they do so they risk sacrificing the real power and purpose of the idea. Your post helped me see that even as these authors would seem to restrict ideas of selfhood, they actually give the reader back a more thoughtful, socially engaged and integrated model for what self-hood might entail.

    A word on teh post itself: use paragraphs to break up the structure a bit (readers appreciate paragraphs!) and use links / images as necessary and useful. They help make the post dynamic!

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