Week 2

In his essay “Resonance and Wonder”, Stephen Greenblatt states that there are two distinct qualities that define the museum’s method of exhibition, and these are resonance and wonder. He defines resonance as “the power of the displayed object to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke in the viewer the complex, dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged and for which it may be taken by a viewer to stand”. And wonder is “the power of the displayed object to stop the viewer in his or her tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention”. He goes on to say that most museum exhibitions that are worth viewing has both elements of resonance and wonder. However, he does argue that the viewer’s experience of an exhibition can be further enhanced if the object has a “strong initial appeal to wonder”, which then can lead to a “desire for resonance”. In other words, the object should be able to draw in the viewers with awe and wonder, and in doing so, it should invite them to delve deeper into the object’s resonance in order to learn, experience, and understand the cultural associations and its significance as a social and historical object. Viewers, then, can better appreciate and experience the exhibition.

Greenblatt’s idea of resonance and wonder can also be applied to other objects. For example, everyone has one or more favorite movies. A recent movie that I fell in love with was Pixar’s Inside Out. I watched it several times already last year, and the reason is because it played with both elements of resonance and wonder. The idea of tiny, imaginary, and colorful creatures living inside our heads was a strange, but intriguing, concept. Not only that but I was able to associate the many emotions Riley displayed with my memories from when I was a teenager. The film was able to draw me in with wonder and keep me hooked through its resonance. And Greenblatt’s idea is not limited to museums and movies. It can be widely applied to architecture, music, books, and other objects. An object that has the power to evoke a sense of wonder and a feeling of resonance can make the viewer’s experience and interaction with the object that much more enriching and rewarding.

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