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Chapter 7: Reading and Writing About Art

I took a Culture Studies 1001 course the previous semester, so many of the explanations of reading text is familiar and redundant (the introduction and the first part of chapter 7.) In the second part of chapter 7, however, I found the author’s analysis of paintings and the significance of the camera interesting. On the discussion of Franz Hal’s portraits of governors and governesses the author brings up mystification and seduction. I mostly agree with the author’s take on both these terms. It is definitely cultural similarities which give Franz Hal’s portraits a familiar feel to them, not the artist’s ability. In discussing the concept of mystification, the author states that “if we can see the present clearly enough, we shall ask the right questions of the past? (Silverman 471). I both agree and disagree with this statement. Understanding the present gives us a backbone to ask questions, compare, and see the changes of the past, however, I believe that mystification is unavoidable because we can only observe and understand so many things at one point before time has slipped away and the present has become the past. The author states that the invention of a camera could cut this boundary of time and perspectives of the world. He also explains how reproductions of paintings take away from the uniqueness of the original painting. I agree with this because to see a painting in person is saying something, but knowing what the picture looks like doesn’t mean as much anymore because it is accessible. Therefore, the paintings are seen as objects, money, or rare items. A good example would be the stereotypical tourist who goes to famous sites and art exhibits to get a picture taken of him/her with that famous piece that he/she has seen in pictures many times. The tourist doesn’t go to see the site for what it looks like since the tourist knows, but instead goes because it is famous or rare. The author also brings up the concept of authorship, which I already understand, and I agree with his perspective, which is that when a film or a picture reproduction is made, the painting no longer speaks for itself; the authority goes to film-maker or photographer. Alone, a painting or piece of art can speak for itself without other perspectives invading what it is saying, but reproductions often have words around them. I thought that the Vincent Van Gogh example, brought up a good point; writing that goes along with a painting that is not by the painter can alter the meaning of what the text is saying, thereby lending authorship, and possibly changing its place in culture.

Works Cited:

Silverman, Jonathon, and Dean Rader. The World Is a Text: Writing, Reading, and Thinking About Culture and It’s Contexts. New Jersey: Pearson, 2006.


Miriam - Great entry here. You do a nice job thinking about the article in this entry. What you said about famous art pieces makes me think of when folks go to a museum to see a piece because it is famous and spend time trying to understand the origin of the fame, instead of having their own reaction to it. I think some people, instead of saying they simply don't like a piece that is famous, put the fault on themselves and assume they mustn't have understood it. But maybe they understood it just fine and simple didn't like it!

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