HEURISTICS 01

INTERPRETING TEXT

The first step in understanding a text is being able to interpret what kind of text we are reading.  How, for example, does a historical text differ from a piece of historical revisionism?  Or how does satire differ from irony?  Knowing the kind of text we are reading provides an insight into the intention of the author, and author intention is key to understanding the various texts we read.

Colorful Book Spines

The Principles of Heuristics

The primary objective of evaluating a text is to try and understand what the intention of the author is.  Even in modern journalism today, for example, the “reporting of facts” is very often imbued with bias, or a particular worldview ideology.  A keen critical reader, therefore, will never simply read a text at face value, but will always try to get at both the style or type of text one is reading, and what the intention of the author is.

Satire


Satire pokes fun at people. It should not be confused with irony (see below) which aims to show the strangeness or absurdity of events in life itself. There are three types of satire (derived from classical literature): Horatian Satire is comedic; it makes fun of people in a humorous way. Juvenalian Satire is typically dark and moody; it is much more serious than Horatian satire, and aims to show the dangers of certain persons and their behaviour. Menippean satire can be either dark or comedic, but it’s distinguishing feature is that it is primarily political in nature, calling out politicians for their lack of morality, or showing hypocrisy among society's elites. Etymology of "Satire" >




Irony


Irony is often explicative or descriptive, not rhetorical like satire. In other words, irony simply highlights the way in which reality often seems to play tricks on us. For example, a teacher spends all her time warning her young students to be careful crossing the road coming in and out of the school. Later that day, the teacher herself is struck by a car crossing the very road she warned her students about. Often irony will present itself as being a contradiction of our expectations about life. Etymology of "Irony" >




Hiistory


We all think we know what history is: the recounting of events in the past in a straightforward way, and without any embellishments. But is this in fact possible? You have probably heard the expression, “the victor writes the history” and there is a lot of truth to this. Many years ago, it was very unlikely that a British student would have learned about the carpet bombing of Dresden and Hamburg during World War II, an event which now many people would identify as war crimes on the part of the allies. There are many factors in our interpretation of history at play. Today, many people want to focus on slavery, for example, as the defining moment in US history. Others argue that this is an inaccurate understanding of the complexities of the formation of the nation. More interestingly, those differences are not only historical in nature, but also tend to run along political lines, suggesting that there is more at play here than simply a desire to recount facts. In ancient times, histories were often written in a very stylistic way, invoking divine origins of a given people or nation. Today, we might not consider, for example, the history of Genghis Khan, writing in the mIddle ages, to be an “authentic” history, because it is imbued with mysticism and folklore. Etymology of "History' >




Heuristics


The discipline of textual interpretation: the way in which we interpret texts, especially (but not limited to) historical texts. The discipline follows some basic principles of interpretation What is the intention of the author? It would be a mistake, for example, to read a tongue-in-cheek piece of comedy as a news report, or to read a scientific piece of writing as a religious piece of writing. Under what conditions was the text written? What was the culture, in other words, from which this piece of writing was developed? A political manifesto from 500 BC for example could not be read in the same light as a political manifesto of 1940. What is the style, or genre, of the writing? Is it satire? Irony? Comedy? History? Here, the intention of the author is important, but it is not the sole consideration. For example, an author may pen something funny without intending to be funny! Hence, the intention of the author (tone) does not match the reader’s experience (mood). Accuracy: is what the author is saying true or accurate? This is probably one of the most difficult parts of textual interpretation, since our own biases can and do play a very strong role in the credibility we lend to a piece of writing. Etymology of "Heuristics" >




Intention


The intention of the author is perhaps the key element of heuristic evaluation. What is the author trying to do? One can never simply say, “the intention of the author is to entertain”, since even entertainment will be filtered through the ideology of the author. For example, some people use comedy to make political points, or to promote a particular worldview. Etymology of "Intention" >





Author's Purpose...

The primary task of heuristic evaluation is to understand the author’s purpose.

 

Is it to get us to buy something?  Is it to get us to change our mind--and if so, from what to what?  Is it purely to entertain, or is there some ulterior motive beneath the appearance of entertainment?

 

The following guide will help you get a handle on some of the issues involved in determining an author’s purpose or intention: