My Problem with Deconstruction

Discuss one strength and one weakness of deconstruction as a method of art interpretation.

Interpreting art could be regarded as a talent or an acquired skill. Such a distinction depends on the mind doing the interpreting. I would argue that for your average Joe, it would be best to turn to deconstruction while on their mission to interpret a work of art, whether it is a certain text’s meaning or deciphering symbols in a painting.  Deconstruction is the idea of breaking an art work down into smaller chunks, in an attempt to not only making interpretation easier, but also to be thorough.  Jacques Derrida was regarded the founder of deconstruction and his theory has stirred up quite a bit of controversy.

Derrida believed that art could “speak for itself” and that even the creator of said art could not be able to tell the viewers all of the meanings their work is hiding, simply due to the fact that the creator would not be consciously aware of every single meaning or thought they were slinging into their work. For an artist to sit and explain all the meanings they could find in their own work, while finding new ones in their efforts, would be outrageous and inconceivable. I believe that is one of Derrida’s weaknesses, to let the work speak for itself. If anyone is going to understand the work to the fullest extent possible, it would be the artist, wouldn’t it? 

[Marcia] Eaton suggests that interpreting art is done mostly for the viewer, in order for them to feel pleasure.  From my understanding, people will only understand you to the depth of their perception. If some don’t believe in having to dissect something in order to enjoy themselves, then so be it. In fact, if we didn’t consider deconstruction and how effective it could be (to peel back layer after layer to find meanings underneath), then we would be able to accept Eaton’s words. Perhaps, for certain people, we won’t have to dig deep for one to enjoy a work of art. At least, when it comes to a painting or photograph, all you need to do is marvel at the sight. But what about poems and other works of literature?

Deconstruction would be invaluable when interpreting them and it is, up to a point. If we let the work speak for itself, then there would be numerous interpretations for every work of art out there. This thought alone gives me enough reason to believe in deconstruction, especially if we want to introduce the idea of there being a correct interpretation for every work of art. This notion makes it imperative to me for deconstruction to occur when it comes to understanding literature. Understanding and interpreting go hand in hand when it comes to interpreting literature. If you do not understand the interpretation of something, then you miss the overall meaning of the work. 

Deconstruction can be effective when studying literature such as The Great GatsbyHeart of Darkness, and so many others, but it falls short when looking at visual forms of art, such as paintings, photographs, perhaps even movies. I would argue that Derrida was onto something when the idea of deconstruction hit his mind, but the theory’s number one weakness is the idea of a correct interpretation. This prevents deconstruction being efficiently thorough, simply due to all the unknown meanings the artist could have infused into their work and had forgotten about, or had not been aware of during the process of creation. 


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