Monday, November 21, 2011

Terministic Screens and Iconicity

Burke brings about the concept of the "terministic screen" as a device that he says is used in part to "direct the attention (45)." Burke notes, in regard to terministic screens, "Here the kind of deflection I have in mind concerns simply the fact that any nomenclature necessarily directs the attention into some channels rather than others (45)," The way that something, whether it be language or the photo example that Burke talks about, is framed can direct the attention to a certain feature or aspect making it seem like the prominent feature of the whole body of work. Basically, the same event can have multiple interpretations based on what type of filter one puts on it. The terministic screen is but one more facet that adds to the what we in the class have discussed about the fragility of interpretation. It seems that in theory according to Burke, the terministic screen acts as the very first step of interpretation. Burke uses an example of three different terminologies of interpreting human behavior and notes that, "even something so 'objectively there' as behavior must be observed through one or another kind of terministic screen, that directs the attention in keeping the nature (49)." There is no way to understand behavior, or any other phenomena for that reason, unless it is first given a filter to narrow its scope. Human life is far to vast to "correctly" and "completely" explain in one try, so terministic screens are used to give some clarity and make sense of things, even if multiple screens can be correct at the same time.

When I was first thinking about terministic screens, I thought about McCloud's theory of icons and images, and how emphasis can be put on different images withing a drawing. McCloud says that human faces can be made very general and simple while the setting might be quite detailed and elaborate in order to make the viewer identify with the character in the drawing. This would be a type of terministic screen in many ways. That connection alone made me think about terministic screens in a different way as well. McCloud and Burke are referring to the same basic concept, but using a different filter or screen to present the idea, and both of them make sense. This could be said about many of the readings we have discussed in this class. The terministic screen might be the most central aspect of interpretaion, no matter what name you want to give to it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not quite sure that the way in which authorial control is exercised in cartoons is an example of terministic screens. Primary reason is this, the type of control that you are describing is author based while terministic screens is audience based. Terministic screens in conjunction with this authorial control would be the way that certain audiences viewed this cartoon in comparison to other audiences. One could say that a cartoonists interpretation of the cartoon would naturally be different than your average person because they know all of the terminology of the business and so they are able to understand the concepts behind the cartoon and understand how they are being manipulated where as the ideal audience is unaware of both of these things.


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