This course name and description ONLY applies to academic year 2021-2022

LLRO 13186-5: On Interpretation: Working the Y-Axis

Instructor: Louis MacKenzie

In this seminar, we will turn to a variety of “texts” (popular song, film, poetry, fiction) as springboards to a praxis-oriented approach to interpretation. Our interest will be as much on the HOW (artistic techniques, choices, options, style) than on the WHAT (subject matter) of the objects we examine. In other words, we will be looking to formalize how to go about finding the seam, the portal (porthole?) through which to enter a text; to move, Alice-like, through the looking glass in order to ground analysis less on “opinion” (generally useless) and more on the signs—explicit and implicit; “intended” or not—that the work transmits. We will try to determine what mental gears to engage in order to get the interpretive vehicle running down the road leading to enlightenment. Subtending these objectives are a number of questions. Is interpretation of the arts the domain of a few specialists, or is it open to all those who look sincerely? What are the limits of interpretation? When does interpretation become over-interpretation? At what point does one abandon a path that at first seemed to hold much promise? How do we go about the business of putting intuition into thought and thought onto paper? How will we know we are on the right path? Are there objective elements to guide us through the labyrinth of analysis? What place do the arts hold in a culture that seems to privilege information; and if the arts do manage to hold their own, what is the value of being able to talk intelligently and analytically about them?