Berger And Tompkins Essay, Research Paper
John Berger’s writing “Ways of Seeing” is a look into the world of art. Throughout his composition, he gives his opinions on various topics about art. Jane Tompkins essay “Indians: Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History” is a look into the world of history. Within her essay, Tompkins discusses her views on the quest of finding truth in history. She uses terms such as “relativism” ,the understanding that man or woman can never find the absolute truth in facts, and “epistemological quandary” , a predicament where in her case she could not find the correct knowledge and facts to interpret and learn the factual information she desired to possess. These terms help to develop her way of finding the historical truth when there are many different accounts of history.
Reproductions occur in many different aspects of life. Two of these such aspects are art and history, the areas of expertise of Berger and Tompkins respectively. Berger believes that non-exact reproductions of art are of great
value while Tompkins believes that there is little value if there is a non-exact reproduction or recount of history.
John Berger ,an art critic as well as an author, is a proponent of reproducing art in different forms other that the original. When Berger talks about this positive view of reproduction ,he says that,
In the age of reproduction the meaning of the paintings is no longer attached to them; their meaning becomes transmittable that is to say it because information of a sort ,and, like all information, is either put to use or ignored; information carries no special authority within itself.(65)
This quote explains Berger’s feelings on the reproduction of art in our time. He illustrates to the reader that reproductions give the art viewer a more specific angle on a art piece. By doing this the art pursuer can understand the piece on a greater level making the original piece more comprehensible. Because of this, Berger makes the assertion that reproduction enhances the understanding of the original piece thus making reproduction justified and a worthy thing to accomplish.
This belief that reproduction further explains a piece of art carries into Berger’s thinking on modern film and the modern camera. Not only can art or paintings be reproduces with another painting but it can be reproduced with the camera. A film-maker can use art to illustrate a theme or point that he or she is trying to make. “When a painting is reproduced by a film camera it inevitably becomes for the material film-maker’s argument”(66). Because of this “a film which reproduces images of a paintings leads the spectator through the painting, to the film-maker’s own conclusions”(66). Film is another venue for people to broaden their understanding of paintings. Thus, Berger is for this form of reproduction. This is another point that Berger uses to further display the benefit of art reproduction.
An alternate view of reproductions is held by Jane Tompkins. She analyzes history with the application of “relativism”, the understanding that man or woman can never find the absolute truth in facts, to the dilemmas of history. In the end, she describes her conclusions regarding historical interpretation. First she begins to realize her dilemmas with establishing non-biased historical fact when preparing to teach a course in colonial American literature. Tompkins wanted to learn what she could about the Puritan’s
relationship with the Americans Indians, but she soon found extremely conflicting reports. She explains,
Some of the conflicting accounts were not simply contradictory, they were completely incommensurable, in that their assumptions about what counted as a valid approach to the subject, and what the subject itself was, diverged in fundamental ways(619).
In other words, when a person researches a fact they will always find conflicting reports which is shown here by Tompkins. Tompkins felt a loss because she was frustrated with this “array of mutually irreconcilable points of view”(619) and decided to turn to what she viewed as “primary sources”(620) for further clarification. Yet here Tompkins finds further evidence of bias, and further frustration. She describes her situation as a complete “epistemological quandary”(620). This is a quandary where in her case she could not find the correct knowledge and facts to interpret and learn the factual information she desired to possess.
This proves to the reader that Tompkins believes that reproductions of history have limited value and must be interpreted. The history that happened is the absolute truth
but the resulting interpretation that occur are diluted and are not the complete truth. Because of this, the historical account that historians write have be read with relativism in mind. If the reader does not do this the person can be thinking that the history that they are reading is the absolute historical truth. Believing in false facts can lead to telling and teaching other people these false facts thus creating a domino effect of lies.
Unlike art, history is not something to be interpreted, it is straight facts. Art is created by an artist to convey a message or a theme to his or her audience. I believe that history should not be explored ,rather, that in an ideal world, history is known and there is no need to hunt for it. On the other hand, art is to be interpreted by people. However, reproduction can lead to many of the original artists ideas and themes to be left out. A person could be mislead by what the “reproductioner” has put before them. Berger says, “Uniqueness of the original now lies in the original of a reproduction?no longer what its image shows that strikes one as unique; its first meaning is no longer found in what it says, but in what it is”(61). I believe that if the main meaning is now found in the reproduction the original inspiration of the artist can be lost forever. This is much like the domino effect of lie that can occur if
history is told incorrectly because the concepts of the “reproductioner” will now be thought of as what the message is supposed to be. Much like the inaccurate accounts of history can be thought of as fact even though it is not.
As you can see Tompkins and Berger have distinct ideas on whether or not there are merits to reproductions life. Berger believes that there is a lot of merit because if there is a reproduction of the original piece than the original piece can be understood better thus making the artist’s message that he or she wanted to convey through their paintings more viable. Tompkins believes that history is always changed for the worse when reproduced. It is changed for the worse because the truth is often not properly written in historical text. Thus the truth is obscured and Tompkins believes that this is a negatives and because of that she doesn’t think that historical reproduction is deserving of merit.
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