Posted by: Dan | May 6, 2010

Textual Criticisms and the Meaning of Life

Historical Criticism: Your life is lived in context and understanding that context with all it’s various aspects (political, social, religious, cultural, historical, economic, relational, familial, linguistic, and so on) will allow you do realize why you live the way you do.  Good luck with that.

Source Criticism:  Your life is actually a corrupted and altered version of prior lives and of the original source of life.  The key to understanding what is important about your life is finding ways of tracking what parts of that source has remained pure and unaltered in you (the genetic code for your dominant brown eye colour, perhaps?).

Redaction Criticism: Outside voices have unduly influenced your life and changed you from the original version of yourself.  In order to restore your original self, you must discover and cut out those parts of you that have been influenced by others (red, pink, gray, and black beads can be employed in order to figure this out).

Literary/Narrative Criticism:  Your life has a beginning, middle, and end.  It also has a cast of characters who play various roles.  Therefore, what is of ultimate importance about your life is not your life itself but the stories you tell yourself about your life.  So, get storied and feel free to use your imagination (I’m testing this one out on my son — by the time he’s five he’ll be thinking I’ve gone to the moon, battled Norse dragons, traveled through time, and gave up a career as an underwear model in order to serve others… I love my life as narrated by me).

Feminist Criticism: A lot of things in life look like penises.  This is not a good thing… unless that penis-shaped object vibrates (in which case it’s use could be liberating instead of oppressive).  If you happen to have a penis-shaped object attached to your body, you will need to take certain measures in life to ensure that you don’t fall into the culturally and historically conditioned habit of abusing people who don’t have penis-shaped objects attached to their bodies.  If you don’t have such an object attached to your body, you’ll still need to become aware of the ways in which you have internalized a penis-shaped mentality.

Reader-Response Criticism:  Your life means completely different things to different people.  Stop worrying about that and accept it is a good thing.

Theological Interpretation:  God is the meaning of your life, the universe, and everything.  This is true regardless of what actually happens in your life.

Others? Queer Theory?  Counter-Imperial hermeneutics?  Feel free to throw something down in the comments.

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Responses

  1. LOL… pretty accurate Dan.

    How about Bultmannian existentialist demythologizing hermeneutics?

    • The meaning of life is responding to the call of the divine which invades the Now and transforms it into an ongoing moment of crisis and decision. This is what all the stories are trying to tell us.

  2. Or Derrida-like deconstruction?

    • Texts are the meaning of life.

  3. Very clever.

  4. biblical theology?

    • If we learn to use the Bible to say things that sound way better than what the Bible actually says, then we will have learned the meaning of life.

  5. Hegel?

    • The meaning of life can only be properly expressed in German.

  6. Hetfield?

    • Life is short and death is imminent. You must live your life in light of your death and not simply be used up and spat out by those people, things, or organizations that want to take your life in exchange for some purported higher meaning. Find your own way, love those around you, and fuck the world (NB: this meaning of life has been copyrighted and if any of you file-sharing motherfuckers try to download it free of charge, you will be sued).

  7. Ian Curtis?

    • Baby, in life we’ve all got problems and, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to end up adding to the problems others have. All things considered, there might be more meaning found in dying than in living and being torn apart by love.

  8. I actually LOLed in a public place in response to the Hegel one.

  9. I am a fan of this blog and love the commentary…
    usually. I am surprised by the entry on feminist criticism…
    you have a blog about those in exile, the oppressed…
    which might be women in many places, time etc.
    but your entry seems to be making fun of them…mocking their criticism and concern.

    doesnt seem like walking with to me.

    • Hey Jake,

      I’m a big fan of a number of these forms of criticism (feminist criticism, narrative criticism, biblical theology…) but you’ll notice that I’m making fun of all of them. Sorry if you felt triggered by what I wrote. To be clear, I’m a big fan of feminism and I don’t think anything I’ve written here will be taken amiss by the other feminists who know me and by women who treat me as an ally in the struggle.

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  11. Jesus?

    • The meaning of life is getting yourself sent to earth so that you can be tortured to death. This will placate the blood-lust of your (heavenly) father and make him accept your friends who, hey, really aren’t all that bad (also, make sure you don’t get laid as the female body might infect you with sin and it is important to maintain a sinless, male image while engaging in the above mentioned activities).

  12. […] Dan Oudshoorn on Textual Criticisms and the Meaning of Life […]


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