I feel like from Kermode’s Chapter I to his last Chapter VI, the purpose of “Genesis of Secrecy” has changed drastically. Kermode started off telling us how important interpretation was, and how we shouldn’t let prejudices impact our interpretations. Well by the time I got to chapter 6, I felt as if Kermode was telling the reader his *own* interpretations of parts of the Bible. After pages and pages, Kermode even throws in the line “I must not make too much of this, and anyway my task is not so much to offer interpretations as to speak of their modes, their possibilities, and their disappointments” (Kermode 133). Yet it seems as if he is doing the opposite. Instead of letting me come to my own views of the stories, Kermode is telling me what I should be thinking. And considering this is opposite of what his supposed purpose for the book is, I really don’t appreciate this. Perhaps I am misunderstanding this line, but what I get from Kermode saying “Yet all practice divination, however intermittently, erroneously, dishonestly, or disappointedly; most of all, disappointedly” (Kermode 126) is that there is divination in everything we read? If this is what he is getting at, then I completely disagree. I can read say a teen fiction novel and understand it completely without any thought of divination. I know Kermode has strong feelings for religion and the Bible and all, but that is not the only way to interpret something. Up until this class I never even touched a Bible, and I think I managed just fine. Sure religion can be looked upon as a means of interpretation, one I am perfectly fine with, but Kermode seems to think it is the *only* form, and I certainly have to disagree with him.
Erin's point about telling us what to think is something I've been thinking throughout our reading of Kermode. It reminds me of reading Emerson's Self-Reliance last semester; both authors are telling us to take our own intepretation of things and to see the world through our own eyes, but technically if we listen to them we are seeing the world through their eyes.This makes me wonder what Kermode would say about the self-defeating nature of his book; if everything has multiple interpretations, doesn't his work also? I don't know, maybe I'm just reading too far beyond Kermode's message and chasing myself in circles.
One thing I liked at the very beginning of this weeks assignment was the image of the chain link that Brother Tarp gives to the narrator. I especially liked the section on page 388 (?) where this chain is briefly compared to the chain that Bledsoe used to have on his desk. The main comparison is between the smoothness of Bledsoe’s chain and the rough look of Tarp’s. In this section Ellison describes Tarp’s chain “as though it had been attacked and conquered before it stubbornly yielded.” (389?) To me this symbolizes the differences between Tarp and the Brotherhood brothers and Bledsoe and the people at the university. Bledsoe has made his transition to power smoothly, by constantly paying attention to the needs and desires of rich whites. He keeps the chain to remind himself of the progress made, but although he has gained great power, he still seems to be a slave to the opinions of men like Mr. Norton. Although Bledsoe states that he has the power to sway men like Norton, he has to worry constantly about how they feel and what they understand of what goes on at the college and the surrounding community. Tarp, on the other hand, struggled greatly for his freedom, and gained it only through cunning deception. Although the actual reason for his imprisonment is unclear, it is evident that he stood up for himself, and because he was black and lied in the south, he was punished beyond what he deserved. The difference between Tarp’s chain and Bledsoe’s chain shows the difference between men like Tarp and Bledsoe, but also the differences between these two phases in the narrator’s life.
Alright this blog has made me a little angry because I had this all typed out and I hit post comment and there was an error. Now I'm starting over and I want to talk about the topic in the first two comments. At the time I thought it was cooler because I would have made it three in a row on the same topic but Maddie slipped in between after my error. I think the topic is a big topic and deserves such attention. I posted a comment very similar to the first two while we were reading Marcuse. When he was talking about freedoms and not being influenced by the media, I stopped and thought to myself, this book is influencing me. I shortly after that learned that the point of Marcuse and Kermode was not to confuse but to inform. Inform the reader that he/she has the power to make their own decision and or interpretation. A power that in its self is very powerful. The circles are easy to get into and hard to get out of but I think looking at the big picture helps. Marcuse and Kermode are trying to help the people, not brain wash them as a form of media to make money. We are born with freedoms and one of them is to be free and Marcuse and Kermode are trying to make sure we know that.
I believe that the purpose of Kermode's final chapter is to offer modes of interpretation, but he nevertheless stresses that these mode will not generate flawless interpretation. Kermode offers modes of interpretation by way of emphasizing that a text's structure may may aid in the task of interpretation, or may even generate some sort of secrecy. For example, Kermode discusses an analytical tool, intercalation, "...intercalation might be the clue to the whole, from the small part under consideration to the entire gospel as it stands in the larger book, intercalated between the long past...and the imminent ending" (Kermode, 127). He then goes on to use intercalation as a tool to aid in his interpretation of the Book of Mark. Kermode discovers that through intercalation he is able to reveal similar and oppositional relationships within the gospel; "The girl, dead or supposed dead, is also unclean, or supposed unclean; she is restored by an exercise of power which is , in antithetical contrast...Between the opposites clean and unclean there are inserted--intercalated--figures of sexual or magical force. We can safely say that these stories do not have the same meanings we should have found in them had they been told seriatim" (133). Thus, Kermode offers a mode that may aid in the genesis of a text's secrecy. However, Kermode makes it clear that modes of interpretation are just tools that interpreters utilize in the endless process of interpretation: "...but we do, living as reading like to think of it as a place where we can travel back and forth at will, divining congruences, conjunctions, opposites; extracting secrets from its secrecy, making understood relations...This is the way we satisfy ourselves with explanations of the unfollowable world" (145). Kermode indicates that different modes of interpretation may aid in the process of interpretation but he also indicates that generated interpretations will further add to a text's mystery; thus interpretation is an endless process.
I absolutely loved the section in Invisible Man where he finally realizes the workings of society and what everyone really thinks of him. He has been used; he is just a tool, a disposable object in their eyes. He finally understands this and attributes it to being invisible. But I find myself wondering the answers to the questions that he asks, "Why hadn't I discovered it sooner? How different my life might have been!" I wonder if his life would be very different at all. These men who saw him in this way had a lot of power and control over his life. Even if he realized this, he might have still done many of the same things. He probably would have joined the Brotherhood anyway just because he was so low on money when he did. If this realization would have caused any changes in his life, how many and how big of changes would they actually have been?
I think it's interesting that throughout the novel Ellison subtly plays with the notions of invisibility and visibility and notes their advantages and disadvantages. Although we often think of being invisible as a negative, it was advantageous for the narrator to be "invisible" when the husband came home and took no notice of him. The narrator also becomes aware of just how visible he is when he gets the letter warning him to be cautious and remember where he came from and when the magazine wants to interview him. I like the way his visibility oscillates and that it can be positive or negative at different times.
Response to Erin: Although I do agree that Kermode digresses from his original argument many times throughout the book, I don't believe he contradicts himself by inputting his own interpretation into the last chapter. I don't think it's possible to not let prejudices effect one's interpretation, as one's predispositions are what create an original interpretation. I felt the parts about Mark were more of a climax combining many of the topics discussed in previous chapters, like the narrative of Peter's Denial. The part that really stuck out to me, and what was used in both or Erin's quotes was the word disappointment. That word basically describes the tone of this chapter. I'll be honest, I lost him a few pages in after he started analyzing Mark through half a dozen different stories. But somehow this complex, almost incomprehensible analysis finished with a rather ironic conclusion: "world and book, it may be, are hopelessly plural, endlessly disappointing; we stand alone before them, aware of their arbitrariness and impenetrability" (Kernode 145). The disappointment of interpretation is that some things are just too complex to figure out completely; as such, the more complex an interpretation, the larger the scope of interpretations that can be formed.