Seeing Written by John Berger Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1312 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … Seeing" written by John Berger. In the analysis, parenthetical in-text

Who's Looking?

John Berger's seminal treatise regarding visual perception, Ways of Seeing, emphasizes the fact that sight is relative. Moreover, this work of literature asserts that there are several different factors that actually influence the way that people see things. Such factors include positioning, sociological principles of power and authority, as well as physical characteristics such as light and angles of viewing. However, a close analysis of this text elucidates the fact that there is a duality involved with the perception of sight and which exists on both literal and figurative planes of conception. Literally, people are able to see objects through their physical sense of the optical. Figuratively, however, how people interpret those sights is where the true subjective nature of viewing things really asserts itself. This dichotomy between the literal and figurative aspects of sight has the potential to influence both forms of visual perception fairly equally, as an examination of Berger's text, as well as that of the films Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf and Rashomon readily indicate.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Seeing Written by John Berger. In the Assignment

Central to this conception of perception is the notion of imagery and of images, which are what most forms of seeing and art (including photography and film) are based upon. Therefore, it is highly important in the understanding of Berger's concepts of the perception of sight to understand what an image is, and how the duality of perception is intrinsically related to it. Within Ways of Seeing, Berger offers the following definition of this an image. "An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced…which has been detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance" (9). There is a palpable transience in this definition, which is central to the importance attached to images and to sight in general. The artificial nature of an image -- since after all, it is not an original sight but one that has been "reproduced" -- alludes to the fact that the perception of seeing has certain artificial, or rather, subjective components as well. In much the same way that an image is "detached" from its original location and representation of a sight, people's ability to view things can also be detached and vary depending on their perception of such an image.

An excellent example of this principle denoted by Berger exists within the cinematic work of art Rashomon. In this film, numerous people give a recounting of events that took place and affected a Samurai and his wife. Although there are a number of ulterior motives that inevitably color the accounts of "truth" for the various individuals involved, the filmmakers allude to the subjective nature of sight and viewing events by failing to disclose to the audience which of these perspectives is authentic and an accurate representation of the events that took place. This reliance upon the subjective nature of sight is a notion that is further clarified within Ways of Seeing as being indicative of the power of mystification that imagery and people's perception of it invariably has. Events that have taken place in the past, such as those that are described in and comprise the majority of the plot in Rashomon, and the images that represent them have a transcendent nature that can actually place people in the past. However, such images are frequently mystified by being taken out of their proper context, which the author is convinced occurs quite frequently in works of art "because a privileged minority is striving to invent a history which can retrospectively justify the role of the ruling classes" (Berger 11). The duality of perception required for this to take place is attributed to both the literal, physical aspect of viewing something and to the figurative aspect of associating significance to those acts. The ability to mystify and obscure what has been seen is certainly evinced within Rashomon.

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