The real reason I became interested in this word is that I was down in L.A. this past weekend, where my sister Julie was one of a few MFA candidates who gave readings from their work at Venice's Electric Lodge theatre. (She rocked it, of course.) While I was down there, I also went and heard a few other readings and presentations given by others at Antioch University, which were also interesting. One woman happened to give a short talk on The Art of the Interview. I like interviews, especially, for some reason, printed versions, like the Paris Review interviews, or the ones they do in Tin House. But I had never really thought about the word until this woman led us to consider it a little more closely. I won't plagiarize her material here, but I think the etymology is fair game.
|The Electric Lodge|
We all know what an interview is, right? One person asks another person questions. But the word originally comes from the Middle French entrevue, which according to the Online Etymology Dictionary is verbal noun coming out of s'entrevoir--"to see each other, visit each other briefly, have a glimpse of", the components being the French entre--between, and the Old French voir, to see. Intriguing, non? I think the French word recognizes how little is actually knowable of another person better than the English does. And the French had to borrow the word "interview" back when they needed the more brash sense of the English. Originally the English meant simply a face-to-face meeting or formal conference. That was in 1510. Journalists didn't get into the picture until somewhere around 1869, and this is first attested in American print. Somehow, this figures.
Again without going into the details of our lecturer's talk, we were led to think a lot about what is going on in an interview, which is basically a lot about power and control. A cat and mouse game. Who's holding the reins--the asker or the teller? If we submit to an interview, how much do we really want to reveal? And to what end?
Congratulations, Julie, and to all your Santa Ana cohort.