Category Archives: Week 13

Act of Meaning-Making

One of the important processes that we have been led to delve into during our discussions is the act of meaning-making. Every language is, simplistically, a collection of signs which represent individually a certain meaning. A text consists of signs that lead a reader to interact with the inherent meaning on both an affective and cognitive level. It should be noted that the reader is not interacting with the signs per se but with the representations of the signs in their heads.

Now, it is apparent that all signs do not have the same meaning: one only has to look at the number of alive languages. In other words, a text (textual or visual) is designed to lead a reader to an intended meaning but it can in no way control how it is interpreted. One of the corollaries of the propositions we read in class is that the meaning of a text does not reside in its signs itself but in the reader’s response to the signs, or in the determination of the appropriate response. This is one of the reasons why there are an infinite number of ways that a textual or visual narrative can be interpreted and that the only way one can misread a text is by not reading it closely enough.

It is interesting the way in which texts have been interpreted in class. They have been interpreted historically, theoretically, ideologically, culturally. In the case of the Rabbits, students have jumped to the conclusion that the narrative has undertones of the colonial versus the anti-colonial. The written words of Rabbits give little reason to imagine that it is the story of Australian natives conquered by whites because the words are telling a story, while the images are showing it.

One of the ways in which a text can be put to use is by employing it to typify an emergent ideology or theory (for instance, the ways in which recent feminist theories are applied to interpret The Canterbury Tales, or even modern geopolitical military theories which have by and large been designed by men). We see this happening in vivid detail in the Rabbits. The historical knowledge in the readers in class allows them to point out that the work is a product of our times and that it is a retelling of the familiar strain of hegemons nullifying the voices of weaker societies. It can be a challenging experience to think of ways to interpret the visuals without the benefit of historical hindsight though. It is conceivable that a nonliterate person or someone who has never seen the ocean or a person who believes in the imperial line of reasoning will interpret the signs differently and draw unique meanings. The visual imagery provides a much wider range of signs with which to interact with. My personal interpretation is that the Rabbits is an effort to stabilize emergent postcolonial thought within a culture that has always been hegemonic, by drawing sympathy for the annexed and bringing attention to how instrumental physical violence has historically been in retaining the power of the dominant.

Week 13: On Reading and The Rabbits

You may respond to one of the following prompts:

Continue the discussion that we had in class last Thursday on the act of interpreting literary and visual texts, generated by the propositions and questions on reading listed in the collaborative notes document. Is there something else that you’d like to add to the discussion? What is a concrete example from our readings that illustrates the issues we discussed?

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In class, we noted that the creatures from whose perspective the narrative is told are not given a name. The absence of a name is particularly jarring given that the invaders are identified as “The Rabbits,” which also serves as the narrative’s title. Tatiana offered that the lack of a name signaled the loss of identity as a result of colonialism. Walter said it suggested that the experience of colonialism is not tied to one specific place, but is a global experience—hence the namelessness of the narrator. What do you think the narrator’s lack of name means? After you explained its significance, provide further evidence from the text that supports your argument. Explain what you think the narrator’s namelessness means in relation to the overall significance of the work.