Sunday, April 3, 2011

The (Newly Announced) Literary Theory of the Eye

What is sight? What is vision? We can talk about the rod cells and cone cells that line the backs of our eyes, the intricate workings of the optic nerve and the layers of the cornea and the beauty of the iris, but if we reduce the issue of the eye to mere science, the knowledge that we may gain from a philosophical and literary critic’s perspective may be lost.

Let us begin by discussing our background. Literary critics from Sasseure to Foucault have deconstructed the meaning of the words we use to describe the things, people and places around us and that we inhabit. Sausseure broke down the substance of language into the signified and the signifier, the word we speak out loud or type on a page or sign with our hands versus the concept we are attempting to refer to by these words. Other critics have examined the role of the book versus an Internet document or a magazine, the role of language in shaping the words we use, and even how our environment determines our personalities, selves and/or our very thoughts

But to my knowledge, nobody has yet discussed the importance of the eye in vision and in comprehending all of this literary hoopla.

I would like to call for the opening of a Foucauldian discourse about the nature of the eye and vision in comprehending literary works. Do blind people reading Foucault understand him in a different way than those who can actually see the words on his pages? What exactly is the different reaction that a play inspires when it is actually being viewed, and experienced with all the senses, instead of merely the eye's seeing it in a book or on a television screen? And what, above all, does this mean to literary theory?

I await the scholars' reactions.

(This is intended to be a joke, but I'm sure that somewhere out there, a theorist is concocting or has already concocted his or her own completely serious theory of the eye. And as spectacularly stupid as this is, there are probably literary or philosophical lines of inquiry that are much worse.)

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