Ugrás a tartalomhoz Lépj a menübe
 


(István Kamarás OJD) English summary of Olvasatok (Interprations).

2008.12.20

 

Englis summary of Olvasatok (Interpetations)

István KAMARÁS: Olvasatok. Budapest, 1996. Osiris p. 491

 

The volume contains writings on the sociological and social-psychological analysis of the reception of   works of art (fiction, films, ballet, etc.). Most of these writings describe the findings of empirical on-prof conducted by the author and his colleagues at the Centre for Library Science and Methodology (KMK) as well as in the Institute for Cultural Research. These writings have been published separately; this volume has them slightly abridged and updated in the mid-nineties.

Why Should We Remember Mrs. Wolf?

In this brief introductory essay the author, looking at the interpretations of István Örkény’s {Trill} (a short story, in no more than 63 words [1] , demonstrates the sociological, anthropological and ontological approaches to reading, among children, people with very poor education, textile workers, typists, teachers, followers of Oriental religions as well as practising Christians. On the basis of the sociological examination of reader responses, he states that the interpretation of the literary work depends largely on socialization and on the individual’s course of life, on the contents of the male or female sets of roles, on knowledge attained in school as well as on the social, economic and cultural status. He finds the reader’s taste, attitude and competence to be only partly of sociological nature, so it is quite difficult to give a correct answer to the question how much the sociological factors influence the interpretation of the literary work. Several elements of the 500 interpretations gathered were equally found in groups significantly different sociologically, and this fact draws attention to the psychology and anthropology of reading. Interpretations revealing evaluation, judgment, identification, generalization, searching for the human essence, the transcendent, as well as those indicating a self-protection against the unusual and the puzzling all point at the common human features of the reader. If culture, literature, and this short story, too, are not substitutes for the minimum of existence, but a necessary condition for a genuine human existence, then existence must also mean a never-ending reading process. The fragmental person is able to complete the fragment, which appears in the artistic form, in the direction of totality, while he or she can share the whole, the whole of being.

Readers in The Maze (readers of two Hungarian short stories in four countries)

In the mid-seventies the author, with the collaboration of literary critic Miklós Fogarassy, looked into the reception (evaluation, impact and interpretation) of two Hungarian short stories [2] (How Long Does A Tree Live? by István Örkeny, and Nazis by Ferenc Sánta), as part of an international comparative investigation, among Russian, Bulgarian, Polish and Hungarian readers, with 17-year-old high-school students, 40-50-year-old skilled workers, and professional librarians representing the reader population. This research covered the role of cultural differences, that of national identity, as well as the reception-altering role of social status, taste, and values.

Concerning reader response, both short stories were liked in each national and social group much more than disliked. Hungarians and librarians liked them the most. It was Russian students who deviated  the most from the concensus on How Long Does A Tree Live. As for the emotional impact of the short stories, a fairly strong concensus was found among readers in different national and social groups, with the single exception of Hungarian skilled workers. In the case of Nazis, in this same group the sentiments of fear, confusion, guilt and that of „something should be done” were combined with shock and distress (also found in other groups). Although official Hungary sided with Germany in World War II, members of this group were only 10-20-year-old that time, and most of them could hardle cause the horrors. Yet, we have to consider the decades-long impact of óhistorical experienceò: these young men, then preparing for the male role, could strongly be influenced by what their fathers and brothers had gone through. Also, the ideology emphasizing that bourgeois Hungary was „Hitler’s most faithful henchman” could press this social group the most.

Three dimensions of acceptance, the response (liking—disliking), the evaluation (artistically valuable—valueless) of the literary work, and agreement with what the reader thought its message was coincided in each group; the share of those who liked the stories but did not think they were valuable was 1-2%; 5-12% liked them but did not agree with the message; and hardly more than 6-12% thought the short stories valueless from a literary point of view but agreed with its message.

A five-point scale was used to measure interpretation, with an inductive/analytical (IA) approach and a deductive/syntetical (DSZ) approach on each level. Level I: repetition of the plot without any abstraction (IA), and a total misreading of the plot (DSZ); Level II: highlighting the factual but not important elements (IA), and the generalization of insignificant elements (DSZ); Level III: mentioning some important elements (IA), and synthesis with a few important elements; Level IV: the analysis of an important subplot (IA), and meaningful but a little sketchy generalization (DSZ); Level V: grasping the whole in the part analyzed (IA), and recognition of relevant connections (DSZ). While in the case of How Long Does A Tree Live? the proportion of inductive/analytical and the deductive/syntetical approaches were roughly equal (with the exception of the librarians), the proportion of the more abstract approaches were two or three times as high. In all groups, the percentage of both the story-repetiting readers and that of those who totally misunderstood the short stories were under 5%. In the case of the Örkény short story, the percentage of those who reached Levels III and IV was the highest; for Nazis, less readers could reach Levels IV and V. The fact that only minor differences were found in the interpretations of high-school students and skilled workers with an education of 8 years or less is a warning sign: it would be a mistake to put the level of education to the top of influencing factors. On the other hand, this fact indicates the weaknesses in teaching literature in all four countries. The correlations among the interpretations of the short stories, the active/passive attitudes toward literature and the scales of values appeared to be stronger.

„Co-author” readers, who reanimated the literary text in the act of reading, were not found in great numbers in any country, but they did occur even in the least educated group. On the other hand, reading restrained by stereotypes was not uncommon even with ‘professional’ readers. Dogmatic behaviour, intolerant to the artistic ambiguity, with a strongly limited sense of possibilities by the sense of reality, was rather frequent—again, not only with ‘lay’ readers. The actual esthetical behaviour can sometimes significantly differ from the reader’s scale of values; that is, it may be able to influence these values.

Follow Me, Mr. Reader (Reception of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita in Hungary)

In addition to the over half million copies available for the 10-million population, there are a few other indications that this novel was extremely popular in Hungary, especially in the seventies and eighties. In several respects, the novel makes traditional reading (with an animated plot, full-blooded humour, heroes suitable for identification and judgment and, in spite of its intricate subplots, with a clear structure and a satisfying ending), but other features make it a on-professi reading (with a complex approach to values and symbols, with multiple levels of meaning; you need to know mythology, history, religion and literature to understand it; it handles time in a peculiar way; its realism, romanticism, comicality of situations amalgated with transtendence, irony and philosophy all result in a text most readers have difficulty decoding). The novel is suitable to satisfy a variety of reader needs, gives opportunity for several authentic interpretations and, naturally, for many misunderstandings and intellectual short-circuits as well.

In addition to the reception of the novel (that is, the responses to it, its impact and interpretation), this time the researchers also looked into the propagation of the novel in Hungary (i.e. its publication, distribution, presence in public libraries), its critical appraisal (based on a comparison of over a hundred criticisms and analyses gathered in 25 countries), its óadaptationsò (to the stage, to the movie screen, to the TV and radio), the myths around it, the process of understanding (the changes in expectations, in relating to the heroes, as well as in the interpretation of the novel during reading).

The sample of 255 was representative of five groups of library users: skilled workers, high-school students, college students majoring in Hungarian literature, as well as intellectuals with backgrounds in the sciences and technology, and in the humanities (representatives of the technical and of the humanistic intelligentsia), while believers (high-school students, college students and intellectuals) made up the control group. One novelty of this research was that the readers were not confronted with the novel in ‘laboratory circumstances,’ but were chosen from those who had voluntarily borrowed this novel from a library. On a sample of 177 the understanding of the novel’s first chapter was tested, another sample (of 38) looked into the overall reading process, while still another sample (of 30) examined the understanding and interpretation of one of the key chapters of the novel (Chapter 24). Finally, it was also examined what had remained of the original reading experience after five years.

While in the Soviet Union the novel was not published in book form before 1973 and even then only 30,000 copies were printed, it was published in Hungary already in 1969. For obvious political reasons, the first edition even here was rather small (5,600 copies), but in five years the novel was present in a total of 250,000 copies. What was then already called a „soft dictatorship” in Hungary, could not ignore the elementary success of the book, which, five years after the first publication, was fully okayed, and was even included in the reading assignment for high schools. One of the most popular female singers also had a popular hit about Margarita, the novel’s heroine.

By 1973, 22% of public library users had read the novel; college students in the greatest numbers (50%), the unskilled workers the least, but still in significant numbers (15%); 29 % of those with college education, but also 17% of those who had not even finished the elementary school. From the mid-eighties the interest in the novel slowly began to lessen, while in the nineties the novel was already ‘canonized’ as a standard reading assignment, with much less spontaneous readers than in the first ten years of its history in Hungary.

The novel belongs to those readings available in Hungary which leave much less readers uninvolved than the average book, while the number of those who reject it as well as the number of those who like it very much are relatively high. In other words, it was one of the most controversial novels in that period. Of public library users, the college students and high-school students liked it the most; the over-40-years-olds and those with the lowest education liked it the least. The reason that engineers liked it more than teachers did was that the former were mostly men, and men like it more. A strong correlation has been found between liking the novel and an active attitude toward reading literature (where the reader is ready to do some effort).

The adjectives most often mentioned by professional interpretators in their genre-categorizations were (in descending order): satirical, fantastic, philosophical, humorous, grotesque, key-novel, and allegoric. While the on-professional readers mostly identified two layers of the novel (the Moscow layer and the Jerusalem layer), most professionals mentioned three (the historical, the satirical, and the transcendent layers), or more. The author identifies five layers of meaning: Moscow at the level of particularity; some Muscovites who stand out from this particularity; the two main characters (of whom especially Margarita’s personality seems to be integrated); the novel about Pilate; and the transcendent layer.

The main questions in examining the reading process were: whether or not the readers are able to find the proper stereotypes; and if they are able to get rid of them in time. We looked into the first impressions and their variants, the encounter of the novel and of the readers’ knowledge, the changes in reader’s associations, in the perception and evaluation of the heroes—both for Chapter 1 and the novel as a whole. We have found that the perfect knowledge of the ‘keys’ to the code system of the book or figuring out the author’s intentions are not conditions of ‘tuning on’ to the novel. Although the absence of a profound knowledge of the period did not prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, ‘historical deafness’ largely hindered reception. Almost all readers had some difficulty handling the transcendent dimension of the novel.

Of the heroes of the novel, Jeshua, the Master, and Margarita evoked the most sympathy (in this order), and Berlioz was the only character whose overall evaluation became negative. In this respect high-school students acted the most differently: only they placed Berlioz before Woland, partly as a man of reason, partly as a victim. Humanistic intellectuals had more sympathy for Woland as a representative of dialectics and criticism than did the engineers. In interpreting the characters, the following reduction-types were found: A. making black-and-white characters out of persons of light and shadow (subtypes: reducing the characters to their actions, to their destiny, to one of their features, judgment instead of understanding, turning selected features into idealized paper-characters, identifying the characters with those in other novels, with real persons known from history, with historical ideals or roles); B. a simplified perception and interpretation of the relationships between characters (subtypes: identification with one character only, reduction to a victim/scapegoat relationship, ignoring one of the sides); C. reducing the system of relations to on-profe-relations (subtypes: emphasizing one relationship, ignoring the intellectual interactions).

Comparing the interpretations of 107 experts from 16 countries, of 25 Hungarian experts and 255 Hungarian readers, not only typical differences but also significant similarities were found. This can be explained with the power of Bulgakov’s text as well as with the common European culture (including a shared taste, shared values, historical experience and cultural attitudes). The main differences between the interpretations of unprofessional readers and those of the professionals are that the former have less elements, there are more sociological and less philosophical/ontological interpretations in this group than in the group of the experts. German experts gave more sociological interpretations than the average, Poles focussed on ethics and theology, Americans focussed on theology and sociology, while Hungarians preferred a philosophical/anthropological approach.

In the interpretations given by on-professional readers, the historical/social approach was dominant (33% of interpretations had it); the rest of the list includes: humane behaviour (18%), power (15%), good and bad (15%), administering justice (13%), moral values (16%), love (9%), the basic issues in human existence (9 %), real and unreal (4 %). Out of the answers offered to them, most readers chose those having something to do with social criticism, faithfulness and justice.

Of the groups examined, the 20-29-year-olds and religious readers liked the novel the most, while the 15-19-year-olds, the over—forty readers liked it the least. Concerning the ódirection of theò óeffectò, most readers were made to think (70), 25-38 % of the answers indicated that the novel entertained them, puzzled them, revealed new relationships, broadened their horizon, and tought them things they had not known. Also among readers more deeply affected by the novel than the average, cathartic affirmation was more frequent than cathartic shock. Four to five years after reading the novel, readers reported on an open-ended question  four types of experience: fading, cooling, lasting, and deepening.

Concerning the reader attitudes toward this novel, four types could be identified: A. factual (only registering the plot, the phenomena, the things and events); B. I (a I identification, an induction without a synthesis, the absence of distance, an assimilative approach, reducing the complex world of the novel to a dreamworld, a moralizing attitude, fulfilment of wishes –this was most frequent with women, skilled workers, high-school students, those with a lower education, those who prefer light reading, those with individualistic values, those less capable of a critical view of society, those insensible to humour and irony, as well as those who believe the world is basically good); C. rational (deduction without an analysis, a critical and rational attitude, social and ontological approaches, moral considerations, self-justification – most frequent among men, engineers, the older, those with better education, those who prefer realistic literature, those with individualistic values, seeking security, those with a more critical attitude toward society, and those who are more self-confident in everyday problems); analytical/synthetical (an active and open attitude, dialogue with the novel, a deduction with analysis, and an induction leading into synthesis, identification with the problem as a whole, a cathartic encounter, entering another system of existence represented by the novel – this is most frequent with graduates in the humanities, those who like modern modern arts, those sensible to humour and irony, those who also respond to the artistic form and style, the younger, and those who believe in the importance of personality, community, the spiritual and esthetical values).

The Reader of Literature

This theoretical study in literary sociology discusses the relationship of the literary work and the reader. Among motives to read literature (factors influencing the behaviour toward literature in general and toward the actual reading particularly) we can identify casual motives, recurring ones, esthetical ones, as well as internal and external ones. We can say that the most significant of these are our existential involvement. The external motives include reference persons and reference groups. Included in the specifically literary reference groups are: spontaneous groups evolving around some shared experience, real and virtual interpretative communities. The reference groups conveying literature includes the former groups plus the information institutions, the institutions to propagate, criticize and convey literature, which also have a significant role in conveying the literary canons. We must consider non-literary motives in cases where some professional activity, hobby, or some pragmatical/utilitarian information need is what induces the reading of the literary work.

Literary attitude is a bend of the partially inherited esthetical sense, taste, erudition, the correlations of reading experiences, the knowledge of literary conventions and reading strategy (i.e. the reader’s idea of what purpose literature and the actual reading should serve). This literary attitude is strongly influeneced and shaped by the scale of values, the world view, the life style, the personal experiences, one’s destiny, sexual identity, belonging to a particular generation, schooling and erudition.

Important elements of reading strategy (as a conscious tuning on to literature and/or to the actual literary work) are the psychophysical, emotional and interpretative activity, openness, the need for autonomous opinion and moral judgment, as well as the capacity of identification.

We can consider the relationship of the reader and the literary work to be a dialogue and a partnership where the reader is the one who ‘places the order,’ who is the mediator and the creator at the same time. For many, reading is mere pleasure, or simply a profitable activity. For others, it is unfolding the truth from the literary work, discovering the treasure hidden in it, decoding the author’s message. For still many others, it is a direct relationship, the way M. Buber described the I-You relationship. For many, reading is confronting their own ‘book of destiny’ with the author’s, which is individual and universal at the same time. There are several people who build a new world around the text being read. The author of this book is solely the reader. Others consider themselves rather co-authors.

As compared to the trivial routine-world, the literary world is a maze, a labyrinth, but it is also a system, as opposed to the chaos of that routine-world. The reader is armed with stereotypes; these stereotypes not only help him but also hinder him. Ideally, the reader and the reading makes a self-regulating system, where the literary work and the reader’s on-profes and ideological horizon get involved in a dialogue, and where the reader’s reflection is also self-reflection. In this case reading also becomes self-healing, which takes place in acting against determinations.

The Effect of Markó’s Jesus (Effect-Investigation of a Ballet)

In 1987, the author examined the reception of an important ballet of Iván Markó, a world-famous pupil of Bejart, among people with different world views, who were present at the dress rehearsal. Out of the influencing factors, the subjects’ world view, taste, susceptibility to modernity, their relationship with ballet and Ivan Marko’s work, as well as their knowledge of Jesus and their views of man were looked at.

The reception of the ballet was positive in each ideological group; believers liked it somewhat more (especially those whose religiousness was conventional), as did those with undeveloped taste, than non-believers and those with developed taste. In the judgment, the Bible was an important point of reference in each group.

The ballet had the least effect on those with undeveloped taste and on the atheists, and it had the most influence on the 15-19-year-olds and the professionals who were believers; still, a subgroup of the atheists reported a cathartic impact. The affirmative effect and the effect resulting in an emotional/intellectual shock were of the same proportion.

In the overall interpretation of the ballet, four types could be identified: rough generalization (most frequent among the not very deeply religious), philosophical interpretation (most frequent among non-beliver professionals), moral interpretation (most frequent among the 15-19-year-olds), and religious interpretation (most frequent among the deeply and traditionally religious).

Women received the ballet somewhat more favourably than men, whose interpretations, on the other hand, were a little deeper. Teenagers with a little less developed taste liked it more than the old with a more developed taste, where, on the other hand, the effect was more cathartic. While those with a less developed taste liked it more, those with a more developed taste saw the relationship of the ballet and the Bible more clearly, the were more involved in the moral and philosophical interpretations, they felt more comfortably with symbols. The interpretations given by believers versus nonbelievers differed more than the difference between those with a more developed taste versus those with a less developed one. We found rough generalization and moral on-profession among atheists more frequently, while believers preferred the religious interpretation; the former had a tendency to see Jesus the man, and the latter, to see Jesus as Son of God. The interpretations given by the traditionally religious and by Marxists were found to be the deepest.

Reception Analysis of Tarkovsky’s film ‘Mirror’

The author confronts the interpretations given by college students and young professionals with the interpretations of film critics, and thus offers his own interpretation of the film. He thinks that this film is a language developing in front of our own eyes, and taking shape in the homologous/metaphoric code (P. Jozsa), as do the artistic creations of Jancso, Fellini, Bulgakov, Joyce, Kafka, A. Tot, Moore, or Chagall. In this code system any fact of life and materiality can function as a code. Regarding the language of Mirror, even the professional interpretators have a rather great uncertainty. In the movie many consider chaotic or mosaic-like and in which it is rather difficult to find the links, parts of on-profe musical composition, Arsenniy Tarkovsky’s poems as well as the alternation of coloured and black-and-white scenes can be used as references. This symbolism, which is taking place in front of the viewer’s eyes, poses a serious difficulty and, at the same time, offers a great pleasure to him.

Both the unprofessional and the professional viewers make an attempt to reduce this multi-faceted and ambiguous film to a self-biographical/documentary, psychological, moralizing or a historical/sociological film. The mystical, moral and mythological paths, offering therapy for the protagonist, who is having a crisis, all appear in the film. In the internal ‘tidying up’ and in the rebirth, the return to the childhood which also represents existence, has a fundamental role. To search this is not enough – you (the creator, the protagonist of the film, as well as the on-professional and professional viewers alike) must open yourself to it so that it can reveal itself.

Zones and Intruders (Examining the Reception of Tarkovsky’s Stalker)

In 1985/86, the author examined the reception of this film, on a sample of 432 people of various world views (traditionally religious, religious in their own ways, non-religious believers and God-seekers, unconcerned, non-Marxist atheists, and Marxist atheists). One could expect a variety of „readings” of the film (religious, occultist, psychological, social, adventure movie, disaster movie, political parable, a story with a moral). In addition to the significance of ideology, the author also considered the role of taste, film education, the world concept and the scale of values.

As he did it in the case of {Mirror}, the author goes through the film from scene to scene, compares the interpretations given by the on-professional and professional viewers and, adding his own interpretations, conducts a special esthetical and hermeneutical analysis.

Examining óperceptionò as well as the recall of what has been perceived, he reveals who recalls what detail, and agrees with G. W. Allport in that perception could be called proception. He also looks at the perception of the music, noise, locations of the film, and the natural phenomena in it, and says that the perception of 15-19-year-old religious viewers proved to be the most accurate, and that of the unconcerned to be the most deficient.

A remarkably low percentage (7%) of respondents órejectedò this unusual and complex film, and only a few of them remained óunconcernedò, and many (27%) remained undecided, but the same number liked it unconditionally. The traditionally religious liked it the most, and the unconcerned viewers liked it the least, the atheists liked it more than those who were religious in their own ways, those who were believers without religion and those who were seeking God.

Six directions of effect could be identified: 1. entertainment (a total of 2%, primarily among the unconcerned), 2. affirmation (15%, traditionally religious), 3. disappointment (15%, unconcerned), 4. alteration of the horizon (15%, the religious in their own ways), 5. displacement (22%, the religious), 6. cathartic shock (20-40-year-old religious).

The majority of viewers felt Stalker a philosophical film, many considered it a mysterious/mystical film (primarily the 15-19-year-old atheists, the traditionally religious, the 20-40-year-old non-religious believers and God-seekers), much less considered it pleasant or artificial (primarily the 15-19-year-old unconcerned).

Among the interpretations given by nonprofessionals there were few factual (5%), one-third to one-half of the members of the five groups gave some kind of empathetical/analytical interpretation, the proportion of rough generalizations was even higher (30 -+ 50%), and the proportion of analytical/synthetical interpretations totalled only 13%. In these interpretations occur sociological elements, more frequently philosophical (ontological) and moral, and most often psychological elements.

The reception, evaluation, and impact was influenced by taste more strongly than by the world view, the genre-categorization was equally influenced by them, while the interpretation was more strongly influenced by the world view than by taste. The greatest differences in all four cases were found between the traditionally religious and the unconcerned, and the traditionally religious and the atheists.

In the viewers of Stalker developed taste and the ideological consciousness went along, this gave them a higher-than average chance for the reception of the film.

 


[1] Trill

Pulls out the paper. Takes new sheets. Inserts the carbon. Types.

Pulls out the paper. Takes new sheets. Inserts the carbon. Types.

Pulls out the paper. Has been here for twenty years. Has a sandwich for lunch. Lives alone. Her name is Mrs. Wolf. Don’t forget: Mrs. Wolf. Mrs. Wolf. Mrs. Wolf.

[2] Both can be categorized as Hungarian short-story writers after World War II. Orkeny’s story, whose protagonist is a lady ill with cancer, who wants to buy an unreplantable tree (a symbol of the ‘tree of life’), is about the contrast between life and death and about humans who want to leave some sign. Santa’s concise, elliptical, ballad-like story is about violence that humiliates human dignity, as well as about behaviours against it. The victims are a young boy and his grandfather; we do not know anything certain about the armed men. The title of the short story (Nazis) may indicate historical nazism as well as any kind of abuse of power against human dignity.

 

 

Hozzászólások

Hozzászólás megtekintése

Hozzászólások megtekintése

Nincs új bejegyzés.