adding page because of Maria’s – Susan Sontag against interpretation:

read her a bunch via Maria.. adding page just now because of ..timing.. and of Maria’s post on Susan’s… interpretation…


Sontag, 50 years ago, on the trouble with treating art and cultural material as “content”—terrifyingly timely today

Susan Sontag against interpretation

this part in particular:

Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world — in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” It is to turn the world into this world. (“This world”! As if there were any other.)

and then this too:

Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, conformable.

and maria’s words here:

In another stroke of prescient and urgently timely insight, Sontag considers this notion of “content” — perhaps the vilest term by which *professional commodifiers refer to cultural material today — and how it defiles art:

after just adding – *professional page

Interpretation, based on the highly dubious theory that a work of art is composed of items of content, violates art. It makes art into an article for use, for arrangement into a mental scheme of categories.

from earlier:

The interpreter, without actually erasing or rewriting the text, is altering it. But he can’t admit to doing this. He claims to be only making it intelligible, by disclosing its true meaning. However far the interpreters alter the text … they must claim to be reading off a sense that is already there.

from Maria:

Even half a century ago, in fact, Sontag was wary of the violence embedded in the act itself:

The contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted by an open aggressiveness…


In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.

Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling.


so i’m thinking.. on the need for idiosyncratic jargon .. as the day.. io dance ness et al..


post on self criticism… (off her commencement speech) via George:


I could generally just spend my day RT’ing @brainpicker


Against Self-Criticism – wonderful read on how our internal critics enslave us and how to break free…

The tyranny of the superego, Phillips argues, lies in its tendency to reduce the complexity of our conscience to a single, limiting interpretation, and to convincingly sell us on that interpretation as an accurate and complete representation of reality:

Self-criticism is nothing if it is not the defining, and usually the overdefining, of the limits of being. But, ironically, if that’s the right word, the limits of being are announced and enforced before so-called being has had much of a chance to speak for itself.

the defining..over defining… of limits of being

You can only understand anything that matters — dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature — by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses. Overinterpretation here means not settling for one interpretation, however apparently compelling it is. Indeed, the implication is — and here is Freud’s ongoing suspicion, or ambivalence, about psychoanalysis — that the more persuasive, the more compelling, the more authoritative, the interpretation is, the less credible it is, or should be. The interpretation might be the violent attempt to presume to set a limit where no limit can be set.


Here, the ideological wink at Sontag becomes apparent. Indeed, the Sontag classic would’ve been better titled “Against an Interpretation,” for the essence of her argument is precisely that a single interpretation invariably warps and flattens any text, any experience, any cultural artifact. (How tragicomical to see, then, that a reviewer who complains that Phillips’s writing is too open to interpretation both misses his point and, in doing so, makes it.)

Susan.. interp


What Phillips is advocating isn’t the wholesale relinquishing of interpretation but the psychological hygiene of inviting multiple interpretations as a way of countering the artificial authority of the superego and loosening its tyrannical grip on our experience of ourselves:

Authority wants to replace the world with itself. Overinterpretation means not being stopped in your tracks by what you are most persuaded by; it means assuming that to believe one interpretation is to radically misunderstand the object one is interpreting, and indeed interpretation itself.

psych hygiene

danger of single story.. et al..

thinking of work – and how even interpretive labor perpetuates not us ness..


from heal (doc):

46 min – bruce: the nature of biology is simple.. bio organisms adapt their biology to fit into an environ.. ie: liver is not touching the environ.. it depends on nervous system to send info so cells adjust bio.. one problem w that.. consciousness is an interpretation.. so my mind is interpreting the environ.. so if i change my perception/mind/belief about life.. i change the signals that are going in and adjusting the function of the cell.. significant.. i .. by my ability to change my environ and perception of environ have the ability to control my genetic activity.. i’m not a victim of my heredity.. i’m a master of my genetic activity.. there’s a mind between the environ and my cells.. the mind is comprised of 2 interdependent elements working together.. conscious and subconscious