Interviewing

In reading Gabrielle Griffin’s chapter on interviewing in Research Methods for English Studies, the thoughts diverged into two separate directions. I was at once drawn to the obvious connections between the Granta interview with Toni Morrison as well as the contrast between this chapter and our earlier reading of Catherine Belsey’s chapter on textual analysis, especially the references to Roland Barthes’s essay on “The Death of the Author.” I was particularly interested in the “Interviewing Authors – the Conventional Way” and the “Transcribing Interviews” sections of Griffin’s chapter as it relates to the Granta interview. And I was interested in how the editors of Research Methods for English Studies chose to place the textual analysis chapter just before this chapter. This placement makes me assume the contrast is evident.

The transcription of the Granta interview was appealing to me even before reading the Griffin chapter. The choice of Mario Kaiser and Sarah Ladipo Manyika to print the transcription of the interview is very intriguing. As Griffin notes “the (intended?) impression is one of the interviewer’s objectivity” and “a sense of the editor’s and author’s words speaking for themselves and presenting a, or the, truth.” (Griffin 181) I was intrigued by Griffin’s next comments that attempt to make a counter argument to this idea. Griffin mentions the effects of the interview process itself as well as how in interviews she read and how the introductions often make note of the living spaces of the interviewees and conducting the interviews on their turf. Kaiser and Ladipo Manyika introduce their interview in much the same way. They met with Morrison in her home and adhered to her concessions (limited to no photographs, but concessions nonetheless). They even describe the home, more specifically photographs in the bathroom, in their introduction. This sets the tone of the interview.  Griffins notes there is a difference between using interview transcription for use in research as opposed to for publication and states that “often only fractions of the textualized interview will appear in published articles or books.” (Griffin 194) In thinking about the Granta interview, I wonder what elements of the interview were cut out and the editorial choices that went into designing the final presentation.

I have discussed Belsey’s chapter on textual analysis and her reference to Barthes in a previous post. I was immediately reminded of this when reading the interviewing chapter given how completely contradictory they are. In one chapter, you have the idea that text should stand on its own and the reader should not be influenced by the idea of the author’s motivations and in the very next chapter, the idea of interviewing the author to gain a more personal perspective is introduced. I can only assume this was intentional on the part of the editors. Otherwise, I would assume that textual analysis would have been positioned much earlier in the book given that as Belsey states “while research entails unearthing information, it is the textual analysis that poses the questions which research sets out to answer.” (Belsey 171) If it is a close examination of the text that incites questions that require deeper analytical methods, one thought would be to present this chapter first. But, when thinking about interpreting the text on its own versus the motivation of the author it is perfectly positioned next to the interviewing chapter. Belsey does not suggest that we ignore the author’s motivation, she is referring to Barthes’ work when she discusses this idea. For me, I think it’s important to take Belsey’s concept of analyzing the text with as little presupposition as possible first and then to, if able, consider an interview with the author. This was the interview does not color your initial reading/interpretation. The interview can serve to support some of the ideas or questions that come up in textual analysis.

Works Cited

Belsey, Catherine. “Textual Analysis as a Research Method.” Griffin, Gabriele. Research Methods for English Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. 160-178. Print.

Griffin, Gabriele. “Interviewing.” Griffin, Gabriele. Research Methods for English Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. 179-199. Print.

Ladipo Manyika, Sarah and Mario Kaiser. “Toni Morrison in Conversation” Granta Magazine. 29th June 2017. Web article. https://granta.com/toni-morrison-conversation/

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