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Tit ia n 's s e x u a l im a g ery , o r r a pe in ar t , or th e histor y o f a ttitud es to rap e, or the cultur a l histo ry o f sixt ee nth-cen t ur y V en i c e

T o c l ear th e gr ound s li g htl y, th e n , I am ass umin g t h a t ther e is a di s t i n ct ion

b et wee n researc h a nd o t her fo rm s of st ud y. Resea r c h i s ex pe c t e d to mak e a co n-

tribu tio n to k n ow l e d ge; it u n c o ve r s so meth i n g ne w. R esearc h i s ex p e ct e d to be 'or i g in a l ' in t h e se n se th a t i t i s in d e p e nd en t : the c o nt r ibution , w hat eve r i t i s,

ori ginate s , in t hat fairly m o dest se n se, w i t h th e r e se ar c her . It d oes not h ave to be ' o ri gi n a l ' in th e much m o re daunt i ng sen se that it s p r ings full y armed from

t he h ea d of t h e r es earch er w ith o u t re ferenc e to an y p rev iou s acc ount. On the

cont rary, in f act: it i s mu c h m o r e li ke l y to in vo l ve asse mblin g id e a s th at ha ve

n o t been bro u g ht t oge th er in qui te that wa y befo r e. A nd i t doe s n ot h ave to s hift

th e parad i g m : th e co nt rib u t i o n ca n b e qu i t e s m a ll , a pi ec e o f t h e ji gs a w. B ut

re s e arc h i s e xpec t e d to m ak e a d i f ferenc e t o th e st a nd a rd acc o unt of a t opic , wh ateve r that t o pi c m i ght be .

~

So fa r , my resea r c h on thi s p aint i n g h as c on s i s t e d o f a n a l ys in g th e ima ge f a i r l y

c lo se l y, i n the li g ht of som et hing I b ring to it from elsew here. T here is no s uch

thin g as ' pur e' r eading: int er pretati o n alwa ys in v ol v e s ex tr a - te x tu a l knowl e dge .

S om e of thi s i s gene r a l , part o f th e r e p e rt o i re of kno w le d g e s th a t co n s t i tu tes a

c ultu re; so m e of it i s persona l , a matter of one's ow n int e r ests or bi og r a ph y-

a n d some of it i s d eri ved fro m secondary so u rces . T h e f irs t impul s e o f m a n y

r es e arc h ers, co n fro nt e d b y an unf am iliar tex t , i s t o l ook up w h a t other s h ave

s aid a b o ut it o n t h e int er n e t, in th e librar y, i n biblio gra phie s pr ov ided f or th e purpo se.

S econ dary so ur c es h ave t heir u ses. The y w ill s o o n m a ke c l ea r th a t th e s tor y

o f Lu cre t ia i s to ld b y L ivy a nd O v id , a nd di sc u ss ed b y S aint A u g u s tine. T h e y

w ill indica t e th e pl a c e of t h is pain ting in Titia n 's work, a nd pr ovo ke comp ar -

i so n s of hi s m a nn e r of pai ntin g w ith hi s co ntemp o rarie s a nd hi s ma s t er .

Gi ovan n i B e ll i ni.

Always rea d th e s o u rces a nd c onsid e r the an a l og ues . Neve r tak e other peopl e

w ord for it. Th is i s the key to sa y in g somethin g ne w: w h a t i s di s tincti ve a bo u t

this text e mer ges as its diff ere nce f ro m a ll th e o ther s . Secon d a r y mate ri a l c a n b e undul y se du c t ive too , h oweve r. Text ual a n a l y sis

is hard - and , if i t i s n 't, i t oug ht t o be. It is a l wa y s mu c h easi e r t o do a lit erat u re search , or read a n a nth o l og y o f essays. I t i s easi er , b u t l ess p ro du c ti ve. Wh at

s ec ondary s our ces u s u a ll y p r o v id e i s w ell in fo rmed, co h e rent a nd rhetoric all y

persuasive a rgum e nts, w hich can lea ve the r esea rcher co n v inc e d that what ev er can be said has b een s aid a lr ea d y. The way t o u se seco n dary s our ces i s v er y s p ar - ingl y indeed . I prefe r t o m ake a li s t of t h e qu est i o n s p osed b y th e tex t and a rr i ve

A ll t hi s is v alu a bl e, if it le a d s t o f urther tex tu a l anal ys i s .

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at m y o w n t e ntati v e , pro v ision a l an swe r s, and onl y then to r e ad oth e r p eo pl e's interpretation s. But w hat pre v ents m y account from being pure subj e cti v i s m , ju s t m y

o pinion ? Suppo se I put for w ard an o utl a ndi s h idea ? Suppo s e , s a y, i n s t ea d of t he con v icti o n s o f 19 70 S feminism ( w hich a r e, of c ourse , impecc a ble!) , I brin g m y

o wn pri va t e pr e occupation s, and d e cid e that the t w o figure s r e pr ese nt e d a re

' reall y' broth e r and sister , or that Ta rquin i s a w oman in dra g . W h at i s t o s top

me calling that 'res earch' on th e sa m e ba s i s ? O r, ho w doe s te x tu a l a n a l ysis differ

from free a ss ociation ?

It differs , I s uggest , in term s of the wa y w e conceptuali s e th e rol e of a th i rd party, a r ea der or , in this instanc e , th e s p e ctator . Take the unc e rt a in ty a b o u t the

re s pon s e th e p a inting in v ites. I prop ose d that T ar q uin and L ucretia i n v it ed the

v iewer t o be more shocked than titill a t e d , but a lso that thi s w as o p e n t o di s -

c ussion . How w ould we go about re s olving the question - if , ind ee d, we can ? My in c lination would be to appeal to a supposed addressee : th e li g htin g i s there

f or a viewer; the composition lines a re there to be interpreted.

entation, not an event, and repre s entation is made for someon e , a ddre ssed to

s

s

Thi s is r e pre-

omeone , ev en if the w ork ne v er se e s the light of day, or never r ea ch es a s pec-

ator other than the artist. Ho w d oes thi s in v ocation o f a third p a rt y ad v ance the a r g um e nt ? T r a d i ti o nal

t

r m s of cultur a l criticism o ft e n h ave di f fi c ult y w ith t his i ssu e . T h e v i ewe r i s

a n indi v idual , s o the s tor y g o es, a nd brin gs indi v idual e x p ec tat io n s a nd va lu es

to th e p ic tu re. D oes n ' t th a t ju st co n f irm th a t th e te x t c a n m ea n a n y thin g we

c hoos e, w h a t eve r h a ppen s t o s trik e u s? T h a t a ll readin gs a r e e qu a l ? I d o n o t thin k s o. Roland B a rth es notoriousl y champion s th e ri g ht s of the

re ader in hi s es say on ' The Death o f t h e A uthor ' . " The read e r w h o i s t o be

liber a ted b y the proposed e xe cution o f th e A uthor i s no mor e, h e m a int ai n s,

t han the 'd es tination' of the te x t . Thi s pol e mic first appear e d in 1 96 7 , onl y a

y ear befor e w orkers and student s to o k t o the s t reets of Pari s s id e b y s id e. A

f o

p roduct of i t s moment , the essa y r ea d s like a manifesto , and in it B ar thes

u nmasks the Author as the alibi of th e critical institution . Criti cs, h e says, hu g

t he te x t to themselves, claim a superior access (based on their re s earch , of

c ourse) to th e Author's intentions , and then explain the work in tho s e t e rms,

exc luding all other possible interpret a tions . Criticism allot s its e lf 't he impor-

ta nt task of disco v ering the A uthor

be en f o und, the t e xt is "explain e d " - v ict o r y to the critic'. 5

b e n e ath the work: w h e n th e A uth o r has

The re a l t y rann y , in other word s, is e x ercised b y the critic a l in s titution ,

w hich s ec ur e s it s authorit y b y e x ertin g a s tran g lehold on w hat i s admi ssibl e as an int e rpretation . Scholarship - huntin g do w n diarie s, l e tter s, aut o biogr a -

p hies, record e d con v ersation s, a ttribut e d remarks and ge n e r a l gossip -

pr oduc es a conjectural auth o r , a nd on th e basis of thi s fig ur e's e quall y

o njectural character and v ie ws, i t i so l a t es an ev en more conje c tural in te n t ion ,

16 2

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of f ne w rea dings o f the t ex t s t h e ms e l v e s . 'T o a l i mit o n th at t e x t , t o f u r ni s h i t wit h a f in a l

sig ni fi ed , t o c l os e t h e w ri t in g , ' Bar th es in sists. " I n a fo llo w - up e ssay, ' W h at i

a n A uth o r ?', M ic h e l Fo u ca ult c all s t hi s sa m e r es tr ic ti ve con str uct o f t h e in st i -

t uti o n 'th e pr in ci pl e of th rif t in the pro l i fe ra ti o n o f m ea n i n g'. 7 Bar th es's c a ll - to - arm s i s p e rf ec tl y per s pi c uo us u p t o th is p oi nt , th o u g h it i sometimes hard to te ll t h at from s ome of t h e extraor d i n a r y c omme n taries an d co u n t er- attack s i t see m s to h a v e ge n era t e d. I t con c lud es, s t ill in t h e s p ir it o f it s time , b y s i di n g with the peop l e : 't h e b i r t h of th e r ea d e r mu s t b e a t cost o f t h e

de a t h of t h e A u t h or'. In th is fi n a l p a r ag r ap h , h owe v e r , i t a pp ea r s th a t th e r ea d e r

i s n ot s impl y a pe rso n , not y o u o r m e, n o t , inde e d , an indi v idu a l a t all . He r e i what Barthe s sa y s:

w hich c a n then be in v oked to f e nd give a t ext a n A uth o r i s to i m p o se

a text is made of mu l tip l e writings, drawn from man y c ultu res a n d

enteri n g i n to m u t u a l re l at i ons of dia l og u e, p arod y , co nt est a ti o n , but

t here is o ne place where t his m ul t i p l icit y i s foc u sed a nd th a t pl ac e i s th e

reader, n ot, as was h it h er t o said , t h e a u t h o r . T h e reade r is t h e space o n whic h a ll t h e qu ota ti o n s th at make u p a wr itin g a re i n s crib e d w ith o ut an y of t h em being l ost; a te x t ' s unit y lies not in its orig in but i n i ts

dest in a ti on.

rea d er i s w i t h o u t hi s tor y , bi ogra ph y , p s y c hol ogy; h e i s s im p l y th a t someone w ho hol ds toget h er in a s in g l e fi e l d a ll th e tr aces b y w hi c h t h e writ t e n t ex t i s c o nsti t ut e d. f

Yet th is de s t i n a tion c a nn o t an y l o n ge r b e p e rs o na l: th e

T hi s u to pi a n f ig u re, w ith o ut bio g ra p h y o r psyc hol o g y, d oes n o t e xi s t in a n y m a t eri a l se n se. To sustai n t h e analog y with t h e Fre n c h Rev o l ution o n w h ic h it de p en d s, Bart h es's m an i festo h as to l ocate th e rea d er in the pla ce of th e people. T h e p eople in thi s co n tex t a r e n ot ind iv idu a l s, however, bu t a n id ea l t y p e, th e op pr essed, w h o will r i se up a nd seize c o nt r o l of . t h eir co ll ec ti ve d esti ny. I n t h e same way, Ba rth es's reader i s t h e id ea l ad dr essee o f t h e wor k , t h e repr e sen ta - ti v e of a l l those w h ose i n terpretatio n s the in stitution h as exc lu ded. W h a t i s at stake, th e n , is n o t a p e r so n a t a ll , but a p osi ti o n in r e l a ti o n t o th e tex t. T o av o id the res tric t i v e practices of t h e i n stit u tion , t o escape its 't h rift' a n d p ro l i f erat e meaning s , t o u n cover, i n o the r wor d s, so m e thin g new, in te r preta ti on a t te nds t o all the q u o t at i ons t h a t make u p th e t e x t , t h e traces b y w hi ch it is constitut e d . We are s ti l l absorb in g th e impli ca t io n s of t h a t c h a ll e n ge, i n m y v i ew. Bar t h e s

i s certa inl y n o t p ro p o s in g th a t we s imp l y s hi f t t he a uth o ri ty fr o m t h e he a d of

the a uth or t o t h e h ead of the r eader. T h e m ain prob l e m f or u s n o w i s t h at, w h il e m ost p e op l e a r e ver y w illin g to s u rre nd er t h e a uth o rit y o f t he aut h or , a l on g w ith i nt i mi da ti o n b y ' in te n t i o n ', t h e y o ft e n wa n t to re pl ace it w i t h th e a uth or - it y of t h e reader as in d i v i du a l . T h is was n o t Ba r t h es's p oi n t a t a ll . H i s rea d e r i s no more t h a n t he d es tin at i on o f th e multi p l e w ri t in gs a nd int e r tex tu a l re l a tion s

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that make up the t e x t itself. In other w ords, th e es sa y d oes n o t s upp ort a v ag u e

s ub j ecti v i s m, in w hich the t e x t mean s w hate ve r it mean s to me, a n d ther e i s

nothing t o discu ss . On the c o ntrar y: 'to read' i s a transiti ve ve rb. W e re ad s om e - thi n g , and th a t som et h ing e xis t s in it s di ffe renc e . I f T a r qu in a n d L u cretia w e re n o more th a n a blank s p a c e for th e r e ad e r ' s fa nta s i es , it w ou l d b e indi s t in g ui s h a bl e

from T h e Ve nus of U r b i no or T r ace y E min ' s B e d . Ba rth e s ur ges u s to be m ore ri g orou s, n o t l e ss .