Philosophical Hermeneutics and Literary Theory


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Joel Weinsheimer

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In this lucid and elegantly written book, Joel Weinsheimer discusses how the insights of Hans-Georg Gadamer alter our understanding of literary theory and interpretation.


Weinsheimer begins by surveying modern hermeneutics from Schleiermacher to Riocoeur, showing that Gadamer’s work is situated in the middle of an ongoing dialogue. Gadamer’s hermeneutics, says Weinsheimer, is specifically philosophical for it explores how understanding occurs at all, not how it should be regulated in order to function more rigorously or effectively. According to Weinsheimer, Gadamer views understanding as an effect of history, not an action but a passion, something that happens to the interpreter. Gadamer offers a new model of historical understanding that is based on metaphor: it fuses the different into the same but, like metaphor, does not repress difference. Similarly, Gadamer’s critique of the semiotic conception of language redresses the balance between difference and sameness in the relation of word and world. The common thread in the contributions of philosophical hermeneutics to literary theory is the multifaceted tension between the one and the many, between sameness and difference. This appears in metaphor and application, in the complex dialogue between the past and present, and between the interpretation and the interpreted generally. In the final chapter of the book, “The Question of the Classic,” Weinsheimer explores the implications of this analysis of Gadamer’s hermeneutics for the current debate concerning the study of the canon and the classic.


"Weinsheimer ably explores some neglected implications of Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics. His well-written book will add new insights to current debates about the interpretation of texts and the revision of canons."—Paul Hernadi, University of California, Santa Barbara

"I have read Weinsheimer's book with great satisfaction. It is lucid and temperate, it is argued with intelligence, and it must be thought a considerable contribution to the problems of interpretation and canon which are at present exercising so many people. I should be surprised if it were not welcomed by all who interest themselves in these questions."—Frank Kermode

"Each chapter is lively, lucid, and clarifies Gadamer's standpoint in relation to literary theory. Highly recommended."—Choice

"[A] lucid and thought-provoking study."—Nicholas Davey, British Journal of Aesthetics

"[In this] timely book. . . . Weinsheimer deals excellently with . . . hermeneutics. . . . lucid."—Andrew Bowie, Radical Philosophy

"Timely and elegant. . . . An excellent, and welcome book, speaking acutely to the critical issues now facing us with impressive scholarship, clear style and a confident sense of its argument."—David Jasper, Literature and Theology
ISBN: 9780300047851
Publication Date: January 23, 1991
192 pages, 5 1/4 x 8 1/4
Hans-Georg Gadamer

A Biography

Jean Grondin; Translated by Joel Weinsheimer

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Hermeneutics, Religion, and Ethics

Hans-Georg Gadamer; Translated by Joel Weinsheimer

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Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics

Jean Grondin; Translated by Joel Weinsheimer; Foreword by H

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