Interpretation of cultural artifacts
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Interpretation of Cultural Artifacts. A Hermeneutical Square. The Artifact and the World[s] of the Artifact The Fabricator[s] and the World[s] of the Fabricator[s] The Engager[s] and the World[s] of the Engager[s] The Referent[s] of the Artifact and the World[s] of the Referent[s].

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Interpretation of Cultural Artifacts

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Interpretation of Cultural Artifacts


A Hermeneutical Square

  • The Artifact and the World[s] of the Artifact

  • The Fabricator[s] and the World[s] of the Fabricator[s]

  • The Engager[s] and the World[s] of the Engager[s]

  • The Referent[s] of the Artifact and the World[s] of the Referent[s]


Analyzing the Artifact:Neutral Level Analysis

  • Bracket the processes by which the artifact came into being

  • Bracket the processes by which the artifact is received and interpreted

  • Generate categories to account for the distinctive features of the artifact


Neutral Level Analysis: Music

  • Analysis of “notes”

    • Pitch

    • Volume

    • Duration

    • Timbre

  • Analysis of combination of “notes”

    • Scale/Mode

    • Texture

    • Form


Neutral Level Analysis: Visual Art

  • Analysis of 2-dimensional art

    • Medium/Media

    • Size

    • Color

    • Imagery (Contour Lines / Forms)

    • Compositional Structures and Design

  • Analysis of 3-dimensional art

    • Medium/Media

    • Size

    • Color

    • Imagery (Edges / Shapes)

    • Compositional Structures and Design


Neutral Level Analysis: Literature

  • Fiction

    • Plot

    • Character

    • Foreshadowing

    • Setting/Atmosphere

    • Symbolism

    • Point of View


Neutral Level Analysis: Literature

  • Poetry

    • Speaker/Poet

    • Figurative Language (metaphor/simile/symbol)

    • Structure

    • Rhythm and Versification


Neutral Level Analysis: Literature

  • Sermon

    • [Implied] Speaker

    • [Implied] Audience

    • “Teaching”: Information

    • “Delighting”: Literary Figures/Structure

    • “Moving”: Argumentation


Basic Neutral-Level Analysis of a Text

  • Language

  • Vocabulary

  • Grammar

  • Syntax

  • Progress of Thought


Example of a Neutral-Level Analysis of a Text


Psalm 1:1

  • ’ašerē ha’îš ’ašer

  • blessedness-of the-man who

  • lō’ hālēk bhē‘atsēt rešā‘îm

  • not he-walks in-counsel-of wicked-ones

  • Ûbederek tottā’îm lō’ ‘āmad

  • or-in-way-of sinners not he-stands

  • Ûbemôšab lētsîm lō’ yāšab

  • Or-in-seat-of ones-mocking not he-sits


Vocabulary and Grammar

  • Nouns: blessedness / man / counsel / wicked ones / way / sinners / seat / ones mocking

  • Verbs: N.B. [no verb copula] / walks [not] / stands [not] / sits [not]

  • Article: the [man] // N.B. not applied to any other nouns

  • Relative Pronoun: who


Syntax

  • Declarative sentence OR Exclamation?

  • 3 parallel clauses in content, but only two in form:

    • Doesn’t walk [progressive] in counsel of wicked ones

    • Doesn’t stand [progressive] in way of sinners

    • Doesn’t sit [progressive] in seat of ones mocking


Progress of Thought

  • Verbs of motion: walk / stand / sit

  • Nouns of place (?): counsel / way / seat

  • Nouns of persons: wicked / sinners / mockers


Example of a Neutral-Level Analysis of a Visual Art Object


Basic Neutral-Level Analysis of a Visual Art Work

  • Medium

  • Size

  • Color

  • Imagery

  • Composition and Design


Medium

  • As reproduced: .jpeg digitized photo

  • As fabricated: egg tempera on wood panel


Size

  • As reproduced: adjustable for computer screen or LCD projection

  • As fabricated: 43.4 x 28 cm


Color

  • Orange: rectangular frame / upper and lower geometrical vegetation effect secondary frame / writing of title / writing in nimbus / ground for writing of the divine name / pages of the book

  • Gold: upper, sides, and lower geometrical vegetation effect secondary frame / tertiary rectangular frame and ground for image / clavus on the figure’s robe / book cover

  • Lighter Green: L and reverse L shapes of geometrical vegetation effect corners of secondary frame


  • Darker Green: Overdrape of figure

  • Lighter Brown: Face, neck, hands of figure

  • Darker Brown: Hair, flesh surrounding eyes, mustache, beard, underdrape of figure

  • Black: eyes


Imagery

  • Single male figure, occupying more than half of the available space, depicted from the waist up on a gold ground, wearing a tunic with a clavus and a dark blue himation.

  • Presented frontally, gazing directly at the viewer.

  • Eyes symmetrically placed on either side of the top of an elongated nose placed above a small shut mouth; lower ear lobes appear on the same crossline as the nostrils. His upper hair falls in symmetrical waves, but his lower hair falls over his left shoulder.


  • Male figure gives a blessing with his right hand (thumb touching fourth and fifth fingers, second and third fingers crossed).

  • Male figure holds a closed book fastened with at least three bands in his left hand.

  • The light source comes from behind the figure (no shadows depicted).

  • On the arms of the cross on his halo are the Greek letters [H]O ŌN, and above his shoulders: [H]O PANTOKRATŌR. In the upper corners of the icon two red medallions with gold ornamentation and lettering contain the abbreviated forms I[ESOU]S CH[RISTO]S.


Composition and Design

  • Verticals: three frames, nimbus [omega], book, bottom part of clavus

  • Horizontals: three frames [N.B. non-symmetrical left secondary frame addition], nimbus [omicron / nu], book, eyes, ears, writing of [H]O PANTOKRATŌR, belt of himation

  • Diagonals: top of clavus, blessing hand, edges of book

  • Circles: medallions with I[ESOU]S CH[RISTO]S, nimbus, hair, eyes

  • Oval: head


Analyzing the Fabricator[s]: Poietic Analysis

  • Exploration of the processes by which a cultural artifact comes into existence

  • Artifact = “window into the past”

  • Material processes

    • Fabrication of the artifact

  • Non-material processes

    • Intention of the creator (inductive/deductive)

    • Role(s) of patron(s)

    • Cultural milieu (social class/economic group/gender)


Methods of Poietic Analysis

  • Historical-critical methods:

    • Textual/Foundational Criticism: determining the original form of the artifact

    • Literary/Genre Criticism: determining the extent and composite character of the artifact

    • [Text: History of Oral Transmission: orality of text]

    • [Text: Redaction/Editing Criticism: citation of or allusion to other written texts]

    • Form/Setting Criticism: Sitz-im-Leben

    • Historical Criticism: relevant contexts


  • Historical psychology: Freudian source

  • Historical sociology: Marxian source

  • New archeology: Reconstructing material culture


Example of Poietic Analysis of a Text: Matthew 1:22-23

  • Textual Criticism: Matthew 1:22

  • Stephens 1550 Textus Receptustouto de olon gegonen ina plhrwqh to rhqen upo tou kuriou dia tou profhtou legontoV

  • Scrivener 1894 Textus Receptustouto de olon gegonen ina plhrwqh to rhqen upo tou kuriou dia tou profhtou legontoV

  • Byzantine Majoritytouto de olon gegonen ina plhrwqh to rhqen upo tou kuriou dia tou profhtou legontoV


  • Alexandriantouto de olon gegonen ina plhrwqh to rhqen upo kuriou dia tou profhtou legontoV

  • Hort and Westcotttouto de olon gegonen ina plhrwqh to rhqen upo kuriou dia tou profhtou legontoV


  • Textual Criticism: Matthew 1:23

  • Stephens 1550 Textus Receptusidou h parqenoV en gastri exei kai texetai uion kai kalesousin to onoma autou emmanouhl o estin meqermhneuomenon meq hmwn o qeoV

  • Scrivener 1894 Textus Receptusidou h parqenoV en gastri exei kai texetai uion kai kalesousin to onoma autou emmanouhl o estin meqermhneuomenon meq hmwn o qeoV


  • Byzantine Majorityidou h parqenoV en gastri exei kai texetai uion kai kalesousin to onoma autou emmanouhl o estin meqermhneuomenon meq hmwn o qeoV

  • Alexandrianidou h parqenoV en gastri exei kai texetai uion kai kalesousin to onoma autou emmanouhl o estin meqermhneuomenon meq hmwn o qeoV

  • Hort and Westcottidou h parqenoV en gastri exei kai texetai uion kai kalesousin to onoma autou emmanouhl o estin meqermhneuomenon meq hmwn o qeoV


  • “Literal” Translation of Matthew 1:22-23

  • All this took place in order to fulfill the word concerning [the] Lord through the prophet spoken:

  • “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they will call the name of him ‘Emmanuel’ that is, having been interpreted, ‘With us [is] God’.”


Genre Criticism

  • Although attached to narrative of Matthew 1:18[b]-21, these verses belong to a literary genre characteristic of this gospel [used 10 times] which might be called “Old Testament oracle citations”.


Citation / Allusion

  • Isaiah 7:14

  • Hebrew: Therefore he-will-give Lord himself to-you sign See! the-young-woman (hā ‘almāh) with-child and-one-bearing son and-she-will-call name-of-him Immanu El

  • Greek (LXX): Behold the virgin (parthenos) in the womb will conceive, and will bring forth a son, and you will call his name Emmanuel.


  • N.B. Original context:

    • doesn’t predict a miraculous birth from a virgin nor the birth of a Messiah centuries in the future

    • is an assurance to King Ahaz that there is negligible danger from an invasion from the north in the late 8th C CE.


Orality

  • The etymology of the name “Jesus” (Iesous in Greek) does not work in either Greek or Aramaic, but only works in Hebrew (Joshua = “YHWH saves”). This strongly suggests that underlying this etymology is Hebrew language oral version of the story.

  • The author feels the need to translate the term “Emmanuel” into Greek for his readers; this suggests that they are Greek-speakers unfamiliar with Hebrew


Form/Setting Criticism

  • What life-setting might have generated the need for Old Testament oracle citations to be attached to gospel narratives?

  • Catechetical or apologetic settings to convince Greek-speaking Jews of the congruence between Jewish history and Christian claims [N.B. Not aimed at Hebrew-speaking Jews since not based on Hebrew text; not aimed at Gentiles since presumably they would not be interested in Jewish prophetic oracles]


Historical Criticism

  • Triangulate with Luke 1:26ff

  • Mother: named Mary, engaged to Joseph [N.B. 1st C CE Jewish marriage customs], virgin

  • Father: named Joseph, Davidic lineage

  • Son: named Jesus [N.B. After Moses’ assistant]

  • Bracket conception by the Holy Spirit [but parallel other divine conceptions in Greco-Roman religion]; bracket angelic visitations and sayings [but parallel other divine messengers in Jewish and Greco-Roman religion]


Example of Poietic Analysis of an Architectural Object

  • Rome: S. Maria ad Martyres (The Pantheon)

  • 27 BCE: originally constructed by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa[see the inscription on the façade] / dedicated to Mars, Venus, Julius Caesar

  • 118-128 CE: rebuilt by Hadrian / dedicated to Nature or all the divine powers

  • 202 CE: restored by Septimius Severus and Caracalla


  • 609 CE: Boniface IV, given the building by the Emperor Phocas, dedicates it to Our Lady and All the Martyrs

  • 663 CE: Constans II strips it of bronze

  • 735 CE: Gregory III replaces the bronze with lead

  • 14th C CE: used as fortress and poultry market / restored after Avignon papacy

  • 1623-1644 CE: Urban VIII replaces granite columns and has bell-towers built by Bernini

  • 1857: taken over by Italian state


Analyzing the Engager[s]: Esthesic Analysis

  • Exploration of the processes by which a cultural artifact is “received”

  • Artifact as “mirror for the observer”

  • Material processes

    • Preservation, reproduction, distribution of the artifact

  • Non-material processes

    • Meaning(s) co-created by receptor(s)

    • Role(s) of patron(s)

    • Cultural milieu (social class/economic group/gender)


Methods of Esthesic Analysis

  • History of the Effect of the Artifact

  • Psychological Exegesis

  • Symbolic Exegesis

  • Dramatization

  • Liberation Theology and Exegesis

  • Feminist Theology and Exegesis


Example of Esthesic Analysis of a Text

  • Matthew 5-7 (“The Sermon on the Mount”)

    • Elitist ethics for those who strive for perfection (monks/nuns)

    • Interim ethics intended only for the short time until the Reign of God was disclosed

    • Private ethics intended only for family and circle of close friends, NOT as a guide for political responsibility

    • Reveals each person’s deep sinfulness and thus need for grace


  • Utopian ethics which break through the cycle of violence and enable peace by rigorous demands and strict basic principles

  • Regression into Jewish legalism characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew’s presentation/distortion of Jesus’ message


Example of Esthesic Analysis of a Musical Composition

  • Bach: “Gloria Patri” from Magnificat in D

  • Gloria,

  • Gloria Patri,

  • Gloria Filio,

  • Gloria et Spiritui Sancto!

  • Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.


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