Notes on Introduction to the Humanities -- Hum A211

William Jamison - Instructor

Lecture 8

Islamic Art

We discussed the narratives associated with

Reader Response Criticism

Got to be a slave... Ethan Brand

2 concerned art of Islam but none was discussed – we have not really done much with the art of the others in the book either – Judaism and Christianity. But went to the difference in narratives Jewish and Islamic regarding Abraham. Pointed out that those stories are the heart of the issue concerning Israel and Palestine – mentioned Mr. Hambas’ lecture the week before. But argued that it is not merely a conflict in narratives – though that is true – but also that the narratives are tied in economically and symbolically with the status quo and the political claims of the various people so that understanding the nature of the situation is depressing since no just solution seems possible.


Reader Response Criticism – first critiqued my use of New Criticism last Tuesday as a miserable excuse for a proper application of it in the analysis of TS Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. But argued that the reason I have difficulty is that I feel it is incompatible with the way I view the world! I cannot imagine a text being considered literal – as an example – but that all texts are interpretable. So the Reader Response theory seems correct and New Criticism does not.


One example of a literal interpretation was “The Coin of Tribute” which I gave first as I remembered the “literal” version – leading to a traditional interpretation but followed up with Robert Funk’s “standard Jewish interpretation” and so pose the question – which interpretation is correct? How could we know?


It seems often a person views an interpretation as the literally correct one when they are simply unaware of what other interpretations there might be. More education – where other interpretations of a text become familiar – lead to the realization that the concept of a “literal meaning” – or perhaps the “New Critics” view is only a method of reinforcing our own interpretation of a text as the only correct one to exclude those interpretations of others.


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