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Presenters: ALINA TAYYAB
Interpretivism: The
Way of Hermeneutics
1. Heidegger’s

Hermeneutics Circle
2. Gadamer's Historical
3. Hermeneutics, Reading
Theory and Literary

 It is the science of biblical interpretations

 This is the study of the theory and methodology of interpretation.
 When it has to do with theology and the Scripture, it deals with the
science of interpretation, and particularly of biblical exegesis.
 Hermeneutics covers all versions of interpretative process of written
verbal and non-verbal communications.

* EXEGESIS: critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture

 Etymologically the word hermeneutics stems from the Greek –

 It dates back to Hermes the Greek mythological deity who serves as a

go-between among gods and between gods and human beings.

 Texts are means of transmitting meaning

 Hermeneutics has practical purpose – of sharing meaning
between communities or persons
- Importantly to place hermeneutics within history and culture




use terms/ rudimentary understanding


More developed understanding

Illuminate and enlarge ideas

Towards starting idea


 ‘our existence is fundamentally poetic’ (Heidegger 1949, p.

 Poetry provides ‘clearing’ where Being is illuminated
 Essence of poetry is establishing being by means of words

 Humans as ‘historically effected’ consciousnesses’

 According to Rundell, Gadamer had two thoughts:
1. We stand in tradition
2. All tradition is wadded in language
 Aoccdrnig to a rseearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it
deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod
are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat
ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total
mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is
bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey
lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amazing?
 Two poles: PAST and PRESENT (horizon of
 Historical hermeneutics: hermeneutical
understating is historical understanding

 ‘Hermeneutical experience is concerned with

tradition’ (Gadamer, 1989, p. 358). Hermeneutic
experience is ‘the openness to tradition
characteristics of historically effected consciousness’
 Present needs to be meditated with past
“The horizon of the present cannot be formed without the
past. There is no more an isolated horizon of the present in
itself than there are historical horizons which have to be
acquired” (Gadamer 1989, p. 306).
 Fusion of horizons of past and present is required:
• For constant assimilation and interpretation of tradition in a
situation it belongs to – changes continuously
• For regaining concepts of historical past to comprehend them
• That ‘as the historical horizon is projected, it is simultaneously
superseded’ (Gadamer 1989, p. 307).
• For “the unity of meaning” in a *work of art - Interpreter’s own
meaning and original meaning helps in overall understanding of
the text
*Gadamer’s interest in historical works of arts
*the ‘horizon’ is, in general terms, that larger context of meaning in which any particular meaningful presentation is
 Artworks should be contemporaneous with every age and should be
interpreted in terms of time

 The authoritative and universal understanding of text is only possible

when our own presuppositions and prejudices are faded away

 Temporal distance performs *filtering function

*temporal distance: how much time (e.g., past or future) separates between the
perceiver's present time and the target event.
* filtering function: when local prejudices die away and new bring about genuine
understanding of text
 Gadamer:
“In fact history does not belong to us; we belong to it”
(1989, p. 276-7).
 History can not be privatized, why?
 Cultural tradition is a universe of meaning
 We must subordinate ourselves to text’s claim to dominate
our minds
Gadamer’s Great Hermeneutical Rule

 Premethodological: our experience of the tradition as an organic


 Methodological: we are to extend unity of the understanding in ever

widening circles by moving from whole to part and part to whole
 Validity of text is there if a text is classical; it does not have to overcome barrier of
distance like other forms of tradition
 A classical text is:
- raised above changing times and changing tastes
- Contemporaneous with every other present
- significant and independent of all the circumstances of time

“Hermeneutics … is an activity related to all criticism

in its attempt to make meaning out of the act of
reading” (Straw 1990b, p. 75).
 Interpretation Theory: continuum that privilege author or text
at one end and reader on the other.
• Where would be place a critic or novelist?
 Umberto Eco’s criticism
• He draws importance to intentio operis (literally “intention of the
work”) against the intentio lectoris (the “intention of the reader”) -
Dialectial link between two
• for decades reader’s role is exaggerated
• Overemphasizing the reader’s role leads to “overinterpretation”
 When good questions are asked, new knowledge
can be produced
 This
“aboutness” provides sense of direction to
 “The internal textual coherence controls the
otherwise uncontrollable drives of the reader” (Eco
1992, p. 65).
Criticism on Eco

 Intentio auctoris – authorial intent should be taken into


 A text means what its author intended to mean is a very

traditional way of reading
Feminist Hermeneutics

 Adrienne Rich
“Re-vision” of texts is “the act of looking back, of seeing
with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical
direction” (Rich 1990, p. 483).
 Feminist critique of literature - not to pass on the tradition
but to break its hold on us
 Authenticity of interpretation and richness of meaning by
focusing reader’s intent (lacks focus on text and author)
HISTORY: Conceptualization of reading

 Straw and Sadowy

Transmission notion of reading

Translation notion of reading

Interactive notion of reading

Transactional and constructionist notion of reading

 Literary theory changes in North America
• Transmission period (1800-1890):
- Reading a text is same as reading the author
- Positivist/expressive realism notions to text emerged
•Translation period (after World War 1):
- formalist approaches to text appeared
- Russian formalism in Europe and New Criticism in Anglo-
American circles
- new critics view: text is all in itself
 Interaction period (predominant now within reading):
- culminated in “structuralism in literature”
- “The structures can be used systematically to reach an
interpretation of any particular text” (Straw 1990, p. 61).
- Synchronic interest in text
- Interpretation as matter of communication – two way; from
author to reader and vice versa
 Transactional and constructionist notion:
- according to Straw it has moved “beyond
In contrast to conceptualization of reading built on the
communication model, transactional models suggest that reading is
more generative act than the receipt or processing of information or
communication. From the transactional view, meaning is not present
in the text; rather, it is constructed by the reader during the act of
reading. The reader draws on a number of knowledge sources in
order to create or construct meaning. (Straw 1990b, p.68)
Ways to Approach a Text

1. Emphatic: the author’s intent is important- we see from the

author’s perspective
- we consider the author’s standpoint
2. Interactive approach: conversation/communication with the
author – our reading becomes critical as we interchange ideas
with the author
3. Transactional mode: our engagement with the text – the
emergence of something new
 Since literature is an act of communication between an author and a
reader through a text (Longman 1987, p.68). Hermeneutics calls for the
integration of these three aspects of literature.
 They should not be abstracted from one another since one presupposes
the other. No single method leads to a complete hermeneutical
approach. It is clear that all three areas are mutually inclusive in the
articulation of meaning.