In the seventh section of the essay, Sontag makes a startling prediction.
From our vantage point, 50 years later, we can say she was correct.
Art is supposed to be messy, complicated, and uncomfortable at times.
The act of interpretation clears out the mess, simplifies it, and makes it comfortable.
Even the most analytic of critics would admit that it is perfectly valid to just experience a work sometimes.
So, I guess I’m somewhat confused at what this essay is really arguing against.She begins by lamenting for a time when we weren’t so inundated with theory.She argues that we’ve become too obsessed with content. Hirsch reacted to the New Criticism as somehow being too loose. If you’re unfamiliar academic literary criticism, there was a period of time starting around the early ’40s where literary theorists thought a text could stand on its own. This school of thought was roughly associated with something called “New Criticism.” The New Critics argued for doing close readings of a text, and this came to dominate the scene so much that we were all taught this as the only way to analyze literature.You could make anything mean anything through a close reading.He wanted only certain narrow, well-justified interpretations, based on the author’s intent, to be valid.We often feel an overwhelming urge that works of art must be about something.How often do you hear: It is even possible that the artist intended certain objects to be interpreted as symbols, but the meaning is not what gives art its merit.We tend to approach a work of art ready to interpret and extract its content.We start pulling out symbols and translating these into some meaning before we even have a chance to experience the work.