Analysis Of Linda Hutcheon's This Is A Photograph Of Me

Superior Essays
“Text means tissue” Roland Barthes once stated, emphasizing that a text should not be viewed as a finished product “behind which lies, more or less hidden, meaning (truth)” but rather as a fluid entity which “is worked out in a perpetual interweaving” (64). Thus, a text does not hide one single truth, waiting to be discovered, but – in perpetual interaction with its readers – creates or at least permits a multiplicity of meanings. Symptomatic of the complexity of meanings woven into a single text are the diverse theoretical approaches that were applied to Margaret Atwood’s poem “This is a Photograph of Me” and the very different interpretations they provided. While some critics interpreted the text as an illustration of the visual power of …show more content…
In accordance with Hutcheon, this essay will argue that “This is a Photograph of Me” is a self-reflexive poem that depicts the “act of reading” (114). However, it will expand her argument by claiming that the poem not only portrays the difficulties of decoding but also of producing texts and that it rejects the idea of a final reading. The beginning of the poem depicts the creation of a literary work, which starts as an assemblage of vague ideas and then gradually morphs into a concrete text. According to Gohrbandt and Von Lutz, self-reflexive poems – that is poems “about poetry and poets” (8) – mark themselves “as such on the level of lexical meaning … through words like ‘imagine’, ‘page’, and ‘printed’” (12). “This is a Photograph of Me” marks itself as a poem about the author’s creative process from the very beginning. It describes how a …show more content…
It can be understood as a poem “about the origin of the poem in the poet’s mind and about bringing to paper what he finds there … [and as] a description of how the [reader’s] mind first conceives of the poem’s subject matter” (Gohrbandt & Von Lutz 148). Although the poem easily lends itself to such a self-reflexive reading, it should also be emphasized that the poem’s preoccupation with “self-referentiality or self-reflexivity”, which is often seen as a characteristic of twentieth-century poetry, “may be … in the eye of the beholder” (Gohrbandt & Von Lutz 10, 95). Rather than considering self-reflexivity as the final “truth … which lies, more or less hidden” (Barthes, 64) beneath the surface, the self-referentiality in Atwood’s poem should be regarded as one of many meanings that are produced in a process of interaction between the text and its

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