Semiotics and Thematics in Hermeneutics

Semiotics and Thematics in Hermeneutics

Semiotics and Thematics in Hermeneutics

Semiotics and Thematics in Hermeneutics

Excerpt

Since the emergence of the New Criticism, the text has become the sole focus of textual interpretation. This textual obsession has made us overlook and even forget the role of context, and this contextual oversight has lately led us to experience some acute interpretive uncertainties and methodological anxieties. These uncertainties and anxieties are now becoming the new syndrome of a post-New Critical malaise. As a remedy for this malady, it is necessary to recall our attention to the problem of contextual understanding. This book is my response to that recall.

My objective is to reinstate contextual understanding as the foundation of all our interpretive activities, as installed long ago in the German hermeneutic tradition. In this restoration attempt, I will show how the recent developments in linguistics and semiotics can be used for the articulation of various contexts. I will further show the indispensability of contextual articulation for the thematic explication of textual meaning. Thus I shall demonstrate the contextual nexus between semiotics and thematics.

This contextual nexus is essential not only for determining the meaning of a text (signification), but also for assessing its meaningfulness (significance). For it alone can situate a text and its meaning in a historical context of human existence, the ultimate ground for all meanings and meaningfulness. This contextual approach goes against the textual approach of formalist programs, especially the New Criticism and French structuralism, which have dominated the humanistic studies in our century. The formalists in general have operated with the confidence that their textual analyses are performed in a timeless perspective that transcends all contextual distortions. But their vaunted timeless perspectives have been no more than their synchronic perspectives in disguise, and can never fully capture the existential relevance and historical significance . . .

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