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TWO ANNUNCIATIONS: EXAMPLES OF INTERPELLATION OR OFFERS OF RECEPTION? A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF PICTURES BY ROGER VAN DER WEYDEN AND RENÉ MAGRITTE Janet Stiles Tyson, B.S., M.F.A. Thesis Prepared for the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS August 2007 APPROVED: Jennifer Way, Major Professor Mickey Abel, Committee Member Patricia Allmer, Committee Member Nada Shabout, Committee Member Kelly Donahue-Wallace, Chair of the Division of Art Education and Art History Robert Milnes, Dean of the School of Visual Art Sandra L. Terrell, Dean of the Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies Tyson, Janet Stiles. Two Annunciations: Examples of interpellation or offers of reception? a comparative analysis of pictures by Roger van der Weyden and René Magritte. Master of Arts (Art History), August 2007, 50 pp., references, 65 titles. This thesis uses reception theory, as formulated by the late Wolfgang Iser, as well as ideas about interpellation or hailing, to compare and analyze two paintings: The Annunciation (c. 1435) by Roger van der Weyden and Personal Values (1952) by René Magritte. It demonstrates that interpellation and reception are part of the same process, and that reception theory is especially suited to this comparison and analysis because it allows consideration of ways in which the comparable pictorial structures of both paintings facilitate their intentions. It argues that those intentions are to engage viewers in a dialogue that ultimately is beneficial to both pictures and viewers. Furthermore, based on this shared intent, and on visible structural similarities, it argues that each of the two paintings identifies and receives the other as a picture of the same image that is, of the Annunciation. Copyright 2007 by Janet Stiles Tyson ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My particular thanks are extended to Dr. Patricia Allmer, Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, for sitting on my committee and for providing me with my first opportunity to address the work of René Magritte within the context of Early Netherlandish painting, at the 2005 Conference of the Association of Art Historians. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS...iii Chapter I. INTRODUCTION... 1 II. RECEPTION OF TWO PICTORIAL TEXTS IN LIGHT OF ISER S THEORIES OF READER RESPONSE III. SUPPORTING TEXTS IV. CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY iv And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail! thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women! And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. Luke 1:28 and 29, King James Version 1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Found in the Gospel of Luke, the Biblical account of the Annunciation, is a delicately literal instance of interpellation or hailing one that Christopher Pye has called the ur-instance of subjective interpellation in Western culture. 1 Visually it has been translated on countless occasions into pictures that, in their turn, hail the individuals who pass before them. How can reception theory be used to analyze such literal instances of interpellation? How can such analysis find similar instances of interpellation in other genres of pictures? What are the relationships between interpellation and reception? What might reception theory reveal about pictures that less literally instantiate interpellation? Do such pictures have intentions about, or anticipations of, response or reception that exceed the intentions of the artists who made them? If so, how are such intentions implemented? How are the above-noted instances of interpellation addressed within the context of Althusserian theories about power relations? Within what other theories of hailing can they be considered? This project focuses on two paintings, whose analysis responds to the questions raised above and anticipates yet others. One of the pictures is a traditional, visual representation of Luke s account in the New Testament: Roger 1 Christopher Pye, The Vanishing, Early Modern Literary Studies 8.2 (September 2002):14. 2 van der Weyden s Annunciation (c. 1435), in the collection of the Louvre. The other is René Magritte s Personal Values (1952), in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The van der Weyden is an oil on oak panel, measuring approximately 34-by-36.5 inches; the Magritte is an oil on canvas, measuring 31.5-by-39.5 inches. Each depicts a dimly lit domestic room that contains a bed and a storage cabinet, among other furnishings. It is a selection that pairs picturing a literal act of hailing and identification of an ideal subject/receptacle, with a painting that has some similar content and, I will argue, a kindred metaphorical content and a comparable pictorial intention. I have seen both pictures in person, at the Louvre and in San Francisco. Sufficient years have passed since either viewing, however, that this discussion is based on a brew of unreliable memories, and on the pictures visual and textual reproduction in print and electronic form leaving me in the peculiar position of writing about direct experience, based for the most part on indirect experiences. But, as Michael Ann Holly has written: The loop, or game, of looking and reading and writing is endless. 2 Therefore, in spite of the passage of time and the endless looping of ideas, I have developed a thesis in respect to the two pictures. I will argue that: The Annunciation and Personal Values similarly intend to interpellate the viewer, in order to engage the viewer in an intersubjective relationship. 2 Michael Ann Holly, Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996), The intersubjective relationship between each picture and its viewer is intended to stimulate a renewal of the picture and an intensified and beneficial consciousness of selfhood in the viewer. The intentions of both pictures are implemented through their similar visual structures and treatment of content, by which I mean architectural references and such objects as pieces of furniture and human figures. Successful demonstration of the points noted above allows me to posit that Magritte s picture is a covert Annunciation in the early Netherlandish tradition of overt Annunciations, as exemplified by the van der Weyden. In other words, the van der Weyden and the Magritte both are pictures of the same image. 3 The primary means by which I will demonstrate my thesis is by describing and analyzing the structure and content of the above two pictures in accordance with Wolfgang Iser s writings on reader response and, to a lesser extent, his writings on the fictive. Iser (22 July January 2007) held the title of Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, and at the University of Constance. 4 He was a student of Hans- Georg Gadamer at the University of Heidelberg and briefly was Gadamer s colleague there, after receiving his PhD in I emphasize Iser s relationship 3 See Hans Belting s Image, Medium, Body: A New Approach to Iconology Critical Inquiry, 31, no. 2 (winter 2005); and W.J.T. Mitchell, What do pictures want? The lives and loves of images (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 83. Mitchell writes: The picture is the image plus the support; it is the appearance of the immaterial image in a material medium. 4 William St. Clair, obituary for Wolfgang Iser in The Independent, 2 February with Gadamer, because the older scholar, who taught hermeneutics, had an abiding influence on Iser. Roman Ingarden s theories of phenomenology also exerted a direct influence on Iser, 6 who understood that phenomenological experience of a text included both the text, itself and the reader s active response to the text. 7 Thus, it is Iser s contention that meanings in literary texts are generated in the act of reading; they are the product of a complex interaction between text and reader. 8 Although Iser s argument is stated in terms of text and reader, I will apply it to picture and viewer, as well, in order to establish the nucleus of my thesis. I am employing reception theory also referred to as reader response and response theory instead of reception history because, as indicated above, reception theory is concerned with the roles of both text and reader. Reception history, however, substitutes the reader s experience for the authority of either the text or its author as that experience changes for various readers over the course of time. 9 Furthermore, I am employing Iser s ideas, rather than those of other reader-response theorists, because so many of Iser s peers also deny or diminish the role of text and/or author. Iser, however, establishes an inclusive middle-ground that takes both conception and reception into account and, therefore, strikes me as practical and reasonable. Yet another, and personal, 6 David Albertson, Stanford prelecture introduction to Wolfgang Iser, Jane Tompkins, Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), Wolfgang Iser, Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 5. 9 Holly, reason for choosing Iser is that this thesis stems from my being hailed by his ideas as much as I was hailed by the visual structuring of the above-noted pictures as well as by other Early Netherlandish pictures and other works by Magritte. Individually and in tandem, those pictures interpellated me, and Iser s ideas announced themselves to me as a means of making sense of those pictorial interpellations. To accomplish that, I am emphasizing theoretical over historical research in my methodology, because it allows me to focus on the individual and intersubjective dynamics of two specific pictures; and because I presently am not in a situation where I can undertake primary research into either Early Netherlandish devotional paintings or Magritte s work. Of Iser s writings translated into English, I have consulted these four, which present the full scope of his complex ideas about reader/text interaction: The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyon to Beckett (1974); The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (1978); Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology (1989); and The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology (1993). I have not read his final book, published in 2006, 10 as it was not available at the time I was analyzing the potential relationship of Iserian theory to the pictures concerned. As of his 1993 text, however, Iser s study of reader response leads him to a conclusion: Art appears to be indispensable, because it is a means of human 10 Wolfgang Iser, How to Do Theory (How to Study Literature) (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). 6 self-exegesis. 11 For Iser, art permits an expanded consciousness of the self s position in what he calls the empirical world. 12 But, if Iser s main point of reference is the literary text, his above, generic reference to art and to the fictive, suggest that his ideas can be applied directly to a variety of texts. Further reference to the relevance of Iser s ideas to visual art is found in Holly s essay, Reading Critical Theory. Holly has quoted Iser in relation to her own application of reader response theory: The emergent meaning, even though Iser operates exclusively with literary examples, must be grasped as an image. The image provides the filling for what the textual pattern structures but leaves out. 13 Wolfgang Kemp and Erdman Waniek, among others, have perceived the relevance of the reception paradigm to analysis of visual texts. Citing Gadamer, Waniek, has written that regardless of physiological differences in the processing of verbal or pictorial cues, from a certain point on, the logic governing the reading process of a painting is that same as that governing the reading of a text. 14 While reception theory has come to be recognized as a tool for visual analysis, Iser s ideas remain underutilized, however, due to his problematic status as a theorist and to the inclusiveness of his ideas which even Holly 11 Wolfgang Iser, The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), xiii. 12 Ibid. 13 Holly, Erdmann Waniek, Looking and Reading: In Search of a Tertium Comparationis, Bucknell Review: Theories of Reading, Looking and Listening (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1981), concedes. 15 Iser s reputation in American scholarly circles has been based on two stages of recognition of his research and writings. The first stage involved Iser s and Hans-Robert Jauss development of reader-response theory at the University of Constance. What became known as the Constance School of reception theory had its counterpart in the writings of David Bleich, Stanley Fish, and other American academics. Although Jauss and Iser initially were accepted by their American peers, both eventually were marginalized in the United States Jauss, perhaps due to revelations about his involvement with the Waffen-SS; and Iser, largely due to a harsh essay by Fish in the spring, 1981 issue of Diacritics. 16 The name of Fish s article was Why No One s Afraid of Wolfgang Iser and, in it, Fish claimed that s Iser s theory was finally nothing more than a loosely constructed network of pasted-together contradictions; push it hard at any point, and it immediately falls apart. 17 Fish concluded that it is in fact not a theory at all, but a piece of literature full of gaps and the reader is invited to fill them in his own way. 18 Unfortunately, Iser failed to produce a strong counterargument to Fish s claims. Peter Uwe Hohendahl has suggested that the reason Fish attacked Iser was that Iser had failed to make a clean break with traditional hermeneutics a break that would be required by American academics of the time, including Fish, 15 Holly, These arguments were put forth by Peter Uwe Hohendahl in Brain Drain and Transfer of Knowledge, Whose Brain Drain: Immigrant Scholars and American Views of Germany, Harry and Helen Gray Humanities Series, vol. 9 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), Stanley Fish, Why No One s Afraid of Wolfgang Iser, Diacritics 11 no. 1 (spring 1981: Ibid. 8 who were intent upon radical revision of literary studies. 19 In other words, Iser had not denounced Gadamer s theories of textual interpretation, but had built upon them. Whatever Fish s motives, his essay damaged Iser s credibility in American academia to such an extent that, in 2004, an anthology devoted to Fish s career included Michael Bérubé s essay, There is Nothing Inside the Text, or, Why No One s Heard of Wolfgang Iser. According to Bérubé: by 1990, readerresponse had fallen off the Major Theoretical Positions chart and poor Iser had disappeared so completely that some worried theorists of reading wondered if he would ever be seen again save on milk cartons. 20 Iser s disappearance from or, less exaggeratedly, his marginalization in American academic critical discourse is acknowledged by Holly in her essay Reading Critical Theory. 21 The overall thesis of Holly s book, Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image, for which the essay serves as a concluding chapter, is that the visual structure of certain historical works of art anticipate and influence how they are going to be received and interpreted, and that Iser s theory of reader response, combined with other elements of the reception paradigm, comes closest to what she wants to say about the afterlife of Renaissance and baroque art Hohendahl, Michael Bérubé, There is Nothing Inside the Text, or, Why No One s Heard of Wolfgang Iser, Postmodern Sophistry: Stanley Fish and the Critical Enterprise, ed. Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004), Holly, Holly, If, at the same time, Holly concurs with Fish s critique, 23 she also has cited Iser s identification of the central question that reception theory answers: that of how it happens that a literary text born under the conditions of a specific historial situation can outlast that situation and maintain its freshness and its impact on different historical circumstances. 24 In addition, Holly has interpreted Iser to mean that the intention of the text eclipses the intent of its author. According to Holly: The meaning that a work accrues through time will always exceed its originating rhetoric. reference to the author s intention (although one would not at first suspect so from Iser s wording) is subtly eclipsed by the passage of the broader cloud of textuality. 25 Grateful as I am to Holly for her qualified vindication of Iser, I also am grateful to Fish for so clearly articulating my reasons for choosing a problematic touchstone for my analysis of the van der Weyden and Magritte paintings. To wit: Iser s writing is full of gaps and the reader is invited to fill them in his own way. Iser s colleague Gabriele Schwab also has reinforced my choice, in her reception of Iser s gaps and contradictions. She has written: As if by osmosis, his theories resonate with what they attempt to show. We may then read Iser according to his own theory, filling in the gaps and endowing his patterns of thought with historical, cultural and personal concretion. 26 Thus, both Fish and Schwab have described the methodology I intend to use in my analysis of van der Weyden s Annunciation and Magritte s Personal 23 Holly, Holly, Holly, Gabriele Schwab, If only I were not obliged to manifest, New Literary History, 31 no. 1 (spring 2000): Values. For, as noted above, I was hailed by those pictures and was interpellated by Iser s theories. Thus, I gratefully accept the indeterminacies in his ideas, and use them to analyze the indeterminacies and the unique intersubjective relationship of the van der Weyden and the Magritte, and of my engagement with them as individual pictures, and as a pair of comparable pictures. I also will employ as additional material with which to fill the gaps in Iser s texts and in the two pictorial texts writings on critical theory by Hans Belting, Norman Bryson, and Margaret Olin, among others. Additional sources for my research include Anne Hollander s book, Moving Pictures (1989) and Lisa K. Lipinski s dissertation, René Magritte and Simulation: Effects Beyond His Wildest Dreams (2000). In writing about the abundant detail in Early Netherlandish pictures, Hollander has referred to naked representations of discrete that force a relation to us, not to each other. 27 For her part, Lipinski has written that Magritte s pictures affect the viewer 28 through pictorial compositions that encourage viewers to embrace the paradoxical. Inhabit the gray areas. 29 These examples of analysis do not directly cite response theory, but each echoes Iser s ideas about ways in which texts hail viewers and engage them in intersubjective processes of creating meaning. They also imply that such instances of interpellation are liberating, rather than 27 Anne Hollander, Moving Pictures (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), Lisa K. Lipinski, René Magritte and Simulation: Effects Beyond His Wildest Dreams, dissertation (University of Texas-Austin, 2000), Ibid, oppressive, and might even subvert the sort of dominant discourses that Louis Althusser addressed in his writings on ideology and hegemony. 30 Furthermore, James Marrow has combined historical research with critical theory to describe the structural and figural programming of Early Netherlandish devotional paintings in relation to their reception. He has written eloquently about the intention of Jan van Eyck and the Boucicaut Master, among others, to go beyond inspiring pious viewer empathy towards the depicted subject and to p
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