Coming to this issue again and again in the readings and during class, I would hint to my impression – that it is restrictive and limiting to critique an interaction having a couple of theories at hand. The content in this post is probably redundant (we have talked about that in class), but still I wanted to put it in one place.

In almost all theories that we looked at, which mainly attempted to show where the meaning, aesthetics of a work are located and how they are constructed, a theory on its own does not suffice. Only in a theory that claims that a meaning of a work is contained and intrinsic to that work (a formalistic theory) then it would seem sufficient to look at the work by analyzing it’s elemental forms. Otherwise, theories often draw on others to contribute to the understanding of that work.  [Hebdige & Polehmus], for instance, explain the meaning of visual cultures in terms of social dynamics and formal styles that are co-constructed. On the other hand, expressionist approaches attempt to reconstruct an understanding of the work by examining the biography, intentions, social norms, desires, and repressions of the creator. In Gadamer’s hermenutics, although meaning and aesthetics are explained in terms of interpretation and fusion of horizons, the space remains open to incorporate other approaches to explain these horizons – approaches that use social structures, formal elements, and personal histories to satisfy some explanation of a particular work. A theory in criticism therefore is often not ready to be operationalized on its own, but  rather in a conversation with other theories and approaches.

I would agree however, that a certain theory/approach would probably take prominence in terms of the orientation that we might want to assume. Such as if we want to examine meaning that resides in and is constructed by the individual we would start by taking Gadamer or Dewey (for instance) and weave our observations in that context – that is, we would use approaches that examine the artifact, the creator, and/or the social context to explain individual interpretation and experience. Hence, a particular theory provides an orientation for the critic rather than a toolset, while the toolset  emerges with the criticism by putting supporting theories in combination and in conversation. This combination is emergent and associative as the analysis of the work takes shape.

According to all mentioned I would find it difficult to completely identify a certain set of theories and resources that are relevant in advance. While this is partially possible, it would also be healthy to let the analysis speak for itself.. I would play with the interaction that I’m examining and let meanings that emerge get freely associated with theories and resources that they trigger… I would dissolve and become an ethereal medium where the interaction can find space to get interpreted in a dialogue with diverse voices.. OK, forget the last sentence 😛