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Monday, September 26, 2005

The Lie of Interpretation

Let's talk about art for a bit. Art in all it's forms. I've just finished reading an essay by a Mr. Andrew Hudgins, called "The Glass Anvil: Lies of an Autobiographer" about lies, the literary kind. The sorts of lies that make your writing better.

One of them is the lie of interpretation. It's the idea that while life may not give resolution, art must have some sort of closure or it will stilt the aesthetic progress. One of my classmates gave an example: Anne Sexton wrote "You don't solve problems in writing. They're still there. I've heard psychiatrists say, 'See, you've forgiven your father in your poem.' But I haven't forgiven my father, I just wrote I did."

Hudgins shares how he swore he would write his autobiography (in poems) while he was still angry. And he did, but his editor kicked the final manuscript back to him, saying that it didn't take the reader anywhere, just delivered them off the edge of a cliff.

I was rolling along with Mr. Hudgins just fine until I read this part of the essay, "The problem boils down to this: life has no intrinsic meaning while art has to have it. Or at least significance."

What makes Hudgin's comment even more perpelxing is that he is a self-proclaimed "born again believer." If anyone should believe life has meaning, a person of faith would. Am I missing something?

This is the question I want to ask: How is it possible for art (the representation) to demand meaning, if there is none in life (the original)? This also raises questions about art like "why?" Why must art have some sort of significance, if life has none? What does that say about the beings that create it and the beings that exchange with it?

Thinking, thinking~


Blogger Marcia said...

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that if you look at nature, there is no desire or drive created that does not also have a created fulfillment. Based on his statement, I would reach the conclusion that humankind's desire to discover intrinsic meaning/significance in art and in life is an indication that it DOES exist and IS discoverable.

Thanks for taking me along on your exploration!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Nice writing... good questions.

What I don't fully get is how Hudgins makes "art" and "life" such separate categories so that even when art has meaning and significance life still doesn't. Doesn't art sometimes supply meaning to life... or is it only reflective of the meaning/meaninglessness of life?

Mmmmmmm now you have me thinking....

2:47 PM  
Anonymous christin said...

Thanks Marcia and Keith for going down this rabbit trail with me.
Coach D - I like how you flipped it around by saying, "Doesn't art sometimes supply meaning to life..."
I'd never thought of it that way, which then offers an answer to one of the "why" questions:- "Why does art have to have meaning?"
If life is meaningless, and something about the nature of art gives it the power to attribute meaning, then humans would expect significance from art, crave it, need it infact.
We would be disappointed when art doesn't attain to it's design.
Hmmm now I'm thinking even more....

7:54 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

If life doesn't have meaning of it's own, without being supplied from art, why are less people interested in art? Is it becuase they have been sidetracked on roads of commercialism, sports, and tv shows?

Maybe this explains why some who get a taste of meaning through art can't seem to stop following it down it's tracks, whether it's actual art or not.

I think it depends on how he defines life. Even people who don't hold belief in a creator think life has meaning; their existence means something, even if they are unsure of what.

I believe no matter what opinion we have of it's quality, life has meaning. Otherwise, what do I tell my daughter? "Sorry kid for bringing you here."

For those of us who believe life comes from The Creator, do we think life is then meaningful becuase He made it, or becuase he is involved with it?

8:37 AM  
Anonymous christin said...

Eric, nice to hear from you! I posed these same questions to my classmates, who aren't believers. I was interested to see that most of them do believe life has meaning. Just like you said.
And then I like you're question about "is life meaningful because it's created or because the creator is involved?" I think this comes down to theology: deism, theism and all that stuff I haven't studied.
But this thought sprung off of your question: While I believe life has intrinsic meaning, I do not believe that the meaning is always apparant or accessible. Therefore (back to art) sometimes, I must write art before meaning is apparant. This would lead back to what Hudgins was talking about, the lie of interpretation, and imposing significance onto my experiences before I truly understand what that significance is.
Whew! That was a brain-full! Now I need a head massage.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous christin said...

Also Eric, I would argue with you that tv shows ARE one of the forms by which art attributes meaning. Just look at all of reality TV. What else is that but an attempt to find meaning in situations where real human beings are put in unreal situations? It's the art of hyperbole: if someone can date 12 girl's at once, maybe it will punctuate the nature of relationships.
So forth and so on.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous David said...


What a great insight! If life doesn't supply the idea of "meaning" then art doesn't have anything to work with?

Your writing is such a joy. I love your voice. You have a gift for creating images, but you use the gift with discipline. I'm so impressed with the way in which your images are arresting but are never contrived or forced. And there's always a gem of insight hidden somewhere.

I'm proud of you my sunshine girl.


8:08 PM  
Blogger Enlargement said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:26 AM  
Blogger karenboden said...

Christin-well done on the Santa Ana Winds. You expressed it poetically and with a sense of reverence.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Darren Campbell said...

Christin, your blog is art (it has meaning)! Will you and Dwayne move back to Marion? We miss you guys!

7:53 PM  

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