Monday, November 21, 2011

A World Lens

Burke's "Terministic Screens" talks about how a person has their own frame of reference, symbols they use for interpreting the world around them. Because of this, words and thoughts would be hard pressed to be objective because any interpretation will be subjective. He says "any nomenclature necessarily directs the attention into some channels rather than others" (45). That means then one person may see something and go down thought Pathway A and another may see the exact same thing but end up at Pathway B. To me this complicates an artist's original intent with their work. If all thoughts are subjective, seen through these screens, how can a person see the artist's true intent if what the viewer gets out of it is completely up to them? The artist could literally say what their work is about but that diminishes its power. I see this all the time in poetry. An author from the 18th century or the 19th century writes something and in class discussion, there is no consensus to what the line means. Since the person is dead, they cannot be there to say exactly what they mean. But this to me isn't a bad thing. It allows for more than what the author intended. It allows for works to be interpreted in different ways, thus allowing it to be relevant even in modern times.


  1. I have two points relevant to your post and completely unrelated to each other.

    First, there's this thing called a beginner's mind. Here's a link about it:

    We talked about this in my EDUC-M 300 class. It's all about going into a situation with absolutely no preconceptions, which is supposed to help you to keep from using stereotypes. And, we all decided that it was absolutely impossible.

    It seems like Burke would agree, and, based on your post, I'd have to agree that there's really nothing wrong with that. Stereotypes are bad, but most of them or true. If they weren't, they wouldn't exist. If weren't going to exist, then statistics wouldn't exist either, and that's kind of impossible since people exist. And, therefore, terministic screens exist.

    Secondly, (and I guess these points are more related than I thought) you reminded me of movie adaptations. People get so bent out of shape about books that become movies. If an author had an idea about a book, wrote it, and published it, the reader still gave it a different meaning. The director of a movie is just another human being who read the book with a terministic screen.

  2. Terministic screens are more than just being subjective in a situation, it's not being able to understand a situation in any other way than your own. You use the example of poetry, but poetry is an art that is designed to have multiple interpretations. The idea of terministic screens extends to every facet of our lives. As some one who walks down a street and sees a dog and has absolutely no idea about dog breeds than all I know is that I am seeing a dog. On the other hand, if I was well learned in dog breeds than I would see this dog and immediately know with a fair amount of certainty whether it's good with kids, whether it's good with other dogs, whether it's a pure bread. All of these thoughts would not have even entered the first person's head because they did not have the training to understand what it is they were observing. If you wish for a more thorough explanation, reread the passage where the different interpretations of a human's instinctual responses which starts on page 48.


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