Column: Removing context deletes relevance in most artistic work

If knowledge is power, then the abundant amount of knowledge that can be accessed these days should not be restricted, especially in an academic setting.

In order for strong analytical practice, it is imperative that a subject matter be investigated in every aspect and lens possible. This ensures an unbiased and reasoned response to a challenging argument. So if that library of resources necessary for analysis is under lock and key, we, as intellectuals, are disadvantaged and unprepared for proper discourse in any rational discussion.

Current literary criticism introduces an offensively basic lens to criticize work known as the “Death of the Author.”

"Current convention in literary criticism asks that the critic discount anything about the author when considering his or her work — his or her political views, particular historical moment, religion, ethnicity, psychological tics and so on,” wrote Daisy Pitkin, a UA Honors Interdisciplinary Faculty member.

This criticism is outrageous and offensive to intellectual analysis because the ability to think about a work is limited. Limited knowledge leads to super boring conversation and it makes students sound ignorant to someone whose knowledge isn’t limited, which makes them look stupid. Authorial death shouldn’t be limited to literature either. All works of art are fair game for intellectual interpretation and are susceptible to this criticism.

For example, let’s consider Justin Bieber’s new album Purpose. If you were to ask a friend to listen to the album and tell you what they think about it, withholding the album’s authorial information, you’ll probably get these very dull responses: “It sounds nice,” “I like it,” or even the dreaded, “I don’t know how I feel about it.” This conversation is in no way, shape or form informed or desired.

The thing that gets stripped away from a thorough investigation of the album is its context, which is absolutely necessary. Knowing who sang the songs on the album will spark an informed opinion on the album. Of course, the other person may vehemently hate the album because of the artist, but at least then they have a reasoned judgment as to why. This also benefits the person informed of the artist so he or she can’t be negatively or personally judged for his or her opinion. Yay for charged discourse.

It’s these factual basics that are important in developing the critical thinking skills necessary to survive in college. It starts with knowing exactly everything you’re working with — be it any form of information — and forming an opinion backed with further research of that knowledge.

Especially now, in college, no one wants to be the person who lacks the skills or knowledge to start a successful conversation with uniquely different thinkers. When you start thinking critically about a scholarly text or anything else, completely ignore this authorial death crap and keep researching and analyzing things as you have been all along. We are all smart enough to not let some people — the ones who thought up this crazy criticism, which is in itself an opinion — dictate how we should think about things.


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