CAT 2020 VARC section was indeed challenging. Two of the passages were tough. This passage is one such. It talks about images, visual culture and concerns which should characterize the study of visual culture. This passage seems tough but take your time and read slowly to grasp the gist of the passage and then attempt the question. The question following the passage asks you to choose the option that describes a word from the passage in the context of the passage. If you want to practice reading passages which are dense and from varied topics and sources, check out Bharath's Reading List.
The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.
The claims advanced here may be condensed into two assertions: [first, that visual] culture is what images, acts of seeing, and attendant intellectual, emotional, and perceptual sensibilities do to build, maintain, or transform the worlds in which people live. [And second, that the] study of visual culture is the analysis and interpretation of images and the ways of seeing (or gazes) that configure the agents, practices, conceptualities, and institutions that put images to work. . . .
Accordingly, the study of visual culture should be characterized by several concerns. First, scholars of visual culture need to examine any and all imagery – high and low, art and nonart. . . . They must not restrict themselves to objects of a particular beauty or aesthetic value. Indeed, any kind of imagery may be found to offer up evidence of the visual construction of reality. . . .
Second, the study of visual culture must scrutinize visual practice as much as images themselves, asking what images do when they are put to use. If scholars engaged in this enterprise inquire what makes an image beautiful or why this image or that constitutes a masterpiece or a work of genius, they should do so with the purpose of investigating an artist’s or a work’s contribution to the experience of beauty, taste, value, or genius. No amount of social analysis can account fully for the existence of Michelangelo or Leonardo. They were unique creators of images that changed the way their contemporaries thought and felt and have continued to shape the history of art, artists, museums, feeling, and aesthetic value. But study of the critical, artistic, and popular reception of works by such artists as Michelangelo and Leonardo can shed important light on the meaning of these artists and their works for many different people. And the history of meaning-making has a great deal to do with how scholars as well as lay audiences today understand these artists and their achievements.
Third, scholars studying visual culture might properly focus their interpretative work on lifeworlds by examining images, practices, visual technologies, taste, and artistic style as constitutive of social relations. The task is to understand how artifacts contribute to the construction of a world. . . . Important methodological implications follow: ethnography and reception studies become productive forms of gathering information, since these move beyond the image as a closed and fixed meaning-event. . . .
Fourth, scholars may learn a great deal when they scrutinize the constituents of vision, that is, the structures of perception as a physiological process as well as the epistemological frameworks informing a system of visual representation. Vision is a socially and a biologically constructed operation, depending on the design of the human body and how it engages the interpretive devices developed by a culture in order to see intelligibly. . . . Seeing . . . operates on the foundation of covenants with images that establish the conditions for meaningful visual experience.
Finally, the scholar of visual culture seeks to regard images as evidence for explanation, not as epiphenomena.
Question 1 : Which one of the following best describes the word “epiphenomena” in the last sentence of the passage?
Note the context in which the word is used: "the scholar of visual culture seeks to regard images as evidence for explanation, not as epiphenomena". Substituting each of the answer options instead of 'epiphenomena' in this sentence, we see that only option B makes sense. Epiphenomena are phenomena supplemental to the evidence.
The question is "Which one of the following best describes the word “epiphenomena” in the last sentence of the passage?"
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