The Power of Point of View

Rejoinder to Tannehill’s post on Ideological (or Evaluative) Plane of Point of View (part 3)

Yamasaki photoby GARY YAMASAKI   In this post, Robert Tannehill provides some helpful correctives to the portrait of ideological point of view presented in my earlier post. However, there are also some portions of his post against which I would like to provide some push-back.

Tannehill is surely right when he asserts that “all the other planes contribute to the ideological plane,” but some confusion ensues with his use of the plural “planes” in a later statement, “To be sure, we can speak of multiple ideological planes. . . .” Boris Uspensky, in introducing the idea of planes of point of view in his A Poetics of Composition, conceptualizes them as discrete dimensions of a narrative work in which point-of-view dynamics occur. Therefore, the point-of-view dynamic of following a particular character can be discerned on the spatial plane of a narrative text, while the point-of-view dynamic of getting an inside view of a character occurs on the psychological plane. This being the case, when speaking of the ideological, it is appropriate to speak in terms of “the ideological plane” as Tannehill does in the first quote above, but it is questionable to speak in terms of “multiple ideological planes” as he does in the second.

In speaking of “multiple ideological planes” Tannehill continues, “for each of the main characters may have his or her evaluative perspective” and adds that the implied author also has an ideological (or evaluative) plane. It is true that the main characters and implied author do each have their own ideological perspective, but these do not represent ideological “planes”. Rather, the characters and implied author each possess an ideological “matrix” made up of all his or her ideological stances, and it is an examination of the ideological “plane” (or dimension) of a narrative that uncovers these ideological matrixes.

In his post, Tannehill outlines how, in the gospels, most characters have ideological matrixes containing some stances in accordance with the implied author’s matrix and other stances at odds with that matrix, but singles out Jesus as a character whose ideological matrix contains no stances at odds with the implied author’s matrix. All of what Tannehill says here is correct, but it does not constitute a point-of-view analysis.

The analysis of point of view is all about through whose perspective an audience is being led to experience the action described. And whether or not an audience is being led (on the spatial plane) to follow a particular character, or is being given (on the psychological plane) inside views of a character, both address this issue. However, the comparing of characters’ ideological matrixes with that of the implied author does not appear to aid in addressing the issue of through whose perspective an audience is being led to experience the action. In fact, no ideological-plane dynamic has yet to be established as speaking to this issue. It is hoped that a fruitful discourse on this topic may develop through future posts.

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