20: Rhetorical Interpretation
Instructor(s) Dale Carrico
Our course is asking the question, "Who Holds the Keys?" This is first of all the question, who are the ones who know how to decipher inscrutable texts, and who are the ones who know how to unlock intractable histories? But when we begin to question further, when we ask just what it is to know these things, and how we know them, and how we know who knows them, we come to realize that our initial question contains within it troubling answers to other sorts of questions, questions about what we think it means to be a "who" and not a "what" in the first place.
“Interpretation” derives from the Latin interpretatio, a term freighted with the sense not only of explication and explanation, but of translation. What are the conventions that govern intelligible acts of interpretation, translation, argumentation? What are the conventions through which we constitute the proper objects of interpretation? Who are the subjects empowered to offer up interpretations that compel our attention and conviction? What happens when objects object to our interpretations or demand the standing of subjects themselves? How does the interpretation of literary texts differ from a scientist’s interrogation of her environment or from any critical engagement with the “given” terms of the social order in which one lives or even from the give and take through which we struggle to understand one another in everyday conversation?
These are questions through which we will survey together themes, problems, and conventions in the rhetoric of interpretation. We will discover that for many of our conversational partners in these investigations, our questions will turn out to turn, astonishingly enough, on various construals of the phenomenon of fetishism. Where we end up together will, of course, be very much a matter open to interpretation.
We will be reading Carol Adams, Theodor Adorno, Louis Althusser, Hannah Arendt, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, William Burroughs, Judith Butler, Guy Debord, Frantz Fanon, Sigmund Freud, Donna Haraway, Daniel Harris, David Harvey, Franz Kafka, Naomi Klein, Bruno Latour, CS Lewis, Karl Marx, Kobena Mercer, Laura Mulvey, Friedrich Nietzsche, Valerie Solanas, Gayatri Spivak, and Oscar Wilde. We will also watch a monster movie by John Carpenter and a couple of YouTube clips of Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek at the People's Mic. All of the works will be available either online or in a course Reader.