Sunday, November 29, 2009

Language and Perspective

What surprised me the most about this class was how many different interpretations can come out of one literary work. When I read each article or work for the first time, I found myself completely tuned into one or two socially controversial aspects; after a second or third read and the presentations of my peers, my mind was always amazed. Although the class includes students, mostly females, from seemingly similar backgrounds and educations, each one of us can take a completely different approach to the same reading. This class has taught me many things about society, religion, and perspectives of the past and present but most of all has shown me the power in difference and individualism. Without variety in world views, the class would not have gotten anywhere. I believe that the individual presentations added to the range of discussions in a way that no teacher alone could have done.

On the topic of individualism and the differences of perspectives, I think it is appropriate that we end the class with A Wrinkle in Time and the articles associated with the book’s banning and interpretations. From the interview between Bob Abernethy and Madeleine L’Engle, one can see that L’Engle herself promotes writing for the sake of writing and expressing oneself rather than for public acceptance. She sees writing as a source of personal therapy for the author: “I am very grateful that I have a journal, and that I can write because that helps me to objectify things that might just mess me around emotionally, otherwise” (Abernethy 2). From this standpoint, writing is for the author and the interpretation of the work of writing is the work of the reader. Just as I gather different ideas from readings than other students in the class, readers from different backgrounds (religiously, economically, racially, socially) apply their own perspectives to develop interpretations. How can we ban writing, a form of the author’s free and personal speech, when writing is not what causes differences in perspectives, and therefore conflicts of interest and potential banning, to exist?

The value of perspective is also limited by the basic methods of communication of writing and speaking. From the internet articles on the banning of curse words and from Donald Hettinga’s article “A Wrinkle in Faith,” one can see that language as a form of expression often proves inadequate for the emotions or ideas that the author or speaker would like to convey. Pinker’s article “Why We Curse: What the F***?” takes a scientific approach to the different interpretations of language and cursing in saying that “Curses provoke a different response than their synonyms in part because connotations and denotations are stored in different parts of the brain” (Pinker 3), that certain words invoke certain connotations beyond the control of language itself. Hettinga’s article also discusses the incapability for language and writing to represent a whole idea or feeling in criticizing the way that some people try to literally interpret the Bible and to “reduce our understanding to something that fits human paradigms but misses the divine mark”. When people get caught up in literally trying to read and understand words rather than the whole idea, they often miss the point of the writing and develop misconstrued interpretations of works. Instead of getting caught up in what may seem like profound anti-religious or anti-feminist statements, readers should read a work and appreciate the author’s attempts to articulate his or her inner emotions and thoughts. Banning should not be applied to works of language when language has proven itself to be inaccurate and so easily misinterpreted.

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