Is it really true that biblical storytellers are able to manipulate point-of-view devices in a text to control even the angle from which their readers view a given scene in their mind’s eye? This is a claim made near the end of the post entitled “‘Perspective Criticism: Everything you never realized you wanted to know about ‘Point of View'” (Sep 21/12), and it appears at first glance to be a bit far-fetched; after all, how can mere words on a page possibly conjure up an image viewed from a particular angle?
To lend credence to this claim, I propose an experiment. I will provide the text of the account of Jesus’ ascension in the Gospel of Luke, and ask that as you read it, you allow the words to form an image of the event in your mind’s eye. Of course, you may have seen depictions of Jesus’ ascension in past movie-watching experiences, but try to set those aside, and simply allow the words of the passage create a fresh image for you. So here is the text:
“And while Jesus was blessing them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”
Now with your ascension image planted firmly in your mind, compare that to the ascension scene of the Jesus Film (1979): [Click here to view the scene]
Chances are strong that this does not match the image resulting from your reading of the text. While the film gives an image from the sky looking down, the text most likely gave you an image from the ground looking up at the parting Jesus. The reason I can say this so confidently is because the point-of-view crafting of this text is designed to establish the readers in a vantage point on the ground from which they are looking up into the sky, whereas different point-of-view crafting would be needed if the intention was to establish the readers in a position in the sky looking down toward the ground.
If the image in your mind’s eye was indeed from the ground looking up, you have experienced first-hand how the point-of-view crafting of a text does indeed have the ability to conjure up an image viewed from a particular angle.