It is a consequence of our argument so far that there can be no single epistemologically sound mode of interpretation which is applicable to all texts. This is because the texts themselves will be more or less epistemologically well founded in their correspondence to the external world, or may deliberately confuse any such correspondence, and further because the text will generate implications which themselves may cause an epistemological uncertainty in the interpreter. There can no more be universal norms for these implications than there can be for the texts which give rise to them.
We are thus left, as we noted at the conclusion of the last chapter, with a number of choices within the institutions we have for the reading and interpretation of literature. Within these varying institutional contexts we decide what we are using the text for.1 In some such contexts such as those of biblical interpretation or the law, procedures and the ends they may serve are closely defined for particular groups. Indeed, any radical doubts about the rules of construction are discouraged.2 This is hardly the case for literary interpretation, whose academic context of free enquiry feeds scepticism. What is more, the interests of those to whom interpretations are offered are far less well defined, and may even have to be located (as in the giving of good advice) before interpretation can become effective.3
The norms of interpretation thus operate within institutional contexts for diverse ends. But I wish now to ask how far they may have an ideological or political character. We shall find that no interpretation is ideologically innocent, even if, for interesting reasons that we will come to discuss, it may pretend to be. For it is the apparent naturalness of the norms we share with others, of the literary tradition we consider important, and of our educational formation (the pedagogical methods of particular institutions) which can prevent us from considering their ideological implications. It is thus the attempt to reveal ideology by and in interpretation that will be our chief concern.
The notion of ideology itself is a complex one. It can have a descriptive sense which presupposes a neutral observer: as when the anthropologist describes a 'cultural system'--its kinship-relations, its scientific and religious beliefs, its legal institutions, and so on, and their interaction. However, most of us think of ideology as it