The Rorschach test is a projective psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.
It is also called “an Inkblot test.”
We use this test as a metaphor that suggests that people see what they want to see and choose to see.
Here’s an example based on the Verdi opera La Forza del Destino. The black intellectual leader, William E.B. Du Bois, sees it as a veiled racial story where Professor Niall Ferguson of Stanford/Harvard tells the story of how he emerged from a performance of the opera on the very day that Britain devalued the pound sterling in 1992.
Black Wednesday refers to September 16, 1992, when a collapse in the pound sterling forced Britain to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (European Monetary System).
Thus the opera, La Forza del Destino is both a Verdi opera and a kind of “raw material” for personal and private interpretation with Du Bois seeing racism and Ferguson seeing national or financial fate.
La Forza del Destino or The Power of Fate, (often translated The Force of Destiny) is an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on a Spanish drama, Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835), by Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s Wallensteins Lager. It was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 10 November, 1862 O.S. (N.S. 22 November).(Wikipedia)
The mansion of Leonora’s family, in Seville.
Don Alvaro is a young nobleman from South America (presumably Peru) who is part Indian and who has settled in Seville where he is not very well regarded.
He falls in love with Donna Leonora, the daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava, but Calatrava is determined that she shall marry only a man of the highest birth. Despite knowing her father’s aversion to Alvaro, Leonora is deeply in love with him, and she determines to give up her home and country in order to elope with him. In this endeavor, she is aided by her confidante, Curra. (Me pellegrina ed orfana—“Exiled and orphaned far from my childhood home”).
When Alvaro arrives to fetch Leonora, she hesitates: she wants to elope with him, but part of her wants to stay with her father; she eventually pulls herself together, ready for their elopement. However, the Marquis unexpectedly enters and discovers Leonora and Alvaro together. He threatens Alvaro with death, and in order to remove any suspicion as to Leonora’s purity, Alvaro surrenders himself. As he flings down his pistol, it goes off, mortally wounding the Marquis, who dies cursing his daughter.
This is the racial aspect on which W.E.B. Du Bois focuses.
Niall Ferguson, by contrast, sees a different “Rorschach inkblot” and hones in on the financial policy story which went like this:
“Soros’ Quantum Fund began a massive sell-off of pounds on Tuesday, 15 September 1992. The Exchange Rate Mechanism stated that the Bank of England was required to accept any offers to sell pounds. However, the Bank of England only accepted orders during the trading day. When the markets opened in London the next morning, the Bank of England began their attempt to prop up their currency as per the decision made by Norman Lamont and Robin Leigh-Pemberton, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and Governor of the Bank of England respectively. They began buying orders to the amount of 300 million pounds twice before 8:30 AM to little effect.
The Bank of England’s intervention was ineffective because Soros’ Quantum Fund was dumping pounds far faster. The Bank of England continued to buy and Quantum continued to sell until Lamont told Prime Minister John Major that their pound purchasing was failing to produce results.
At 10:30 AM on 16 September, the British government announced a rise in the base interest rate from an already high 10 to 12 percent to tempt speculators to buy pounds. Despite this and a promise later the same day to raise base rates again to 15 percent, dealers kept selling pounds, convinced that the government would not stick with its promise. By 7:00 that evening, Norman Lamont, then Chancellor, announced Britain would leave the ERM and rates would remain at the new level of 12 percent; however, on the next day the interest rate was back on 10%.
It was later revealed that the decision to withdraw had been agreed at an emergency meeting during the day between Norman Lamont, Prime Minister John Major, Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, President of the Board of Trade Michael Heseltine, and Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke (the latter three all being staunch pro-Europeans as well as senior Cabinet Ministers), and that the interest rate hike to 15% had only been a temporary measure to prevent a rout in the pound that afternoon.”
For W.E.B. Du Bois, the story within the story of the Verdi opera is the color-line that governs the world, while Ferguson sees the story as a “dramatic” instance of financial and economic force or working out of trends that becomes a destiny.
Hence people see what they choose to see and interpreting and seeing are wrapped up in each other.
Students should assimilate this aspect of the world.
Note: one source of the Du Bois interpretation of the opera comes from the University of Chicago book, Travels in the Reich: 1933-1945 (edited by Oliver Lubrich, 2012) which has a chapter on Du Bois in Germany in the thirties where he plunges into music and opera and highlights this Verdi one.