Re: Theory and the hermeneutic circle
- I hope this isn't too long. I will subdivide it. First of all--
Susan, you're teaching a Tolkien course? I'm so jealous! No, I don't
know your friend. Is she in the English program? I do know Bruce
Edwards, who some of you may know.
1) As I hit send this morning, I was afraid that everyone would focus
on the last part of my email and not the first. Susan, I did admit to
my bias, but I'm not sure if I did so proudly. I tend to see that
bias as a weakness. Now, whether it is or not is another question,
and one I have long debated.
Many people think that one's faith ought to color everything one
does. But then, many of those same people would often criticize
people who allow Feminism, Marxism or their sexual orientation to
color everything they do. I cannot decide where I ought to stand. It
is something that I need to work out before I start really writing,
however-- and I'm behind because I'm presenting my first paper in a
month! So any advice one way or another would be helpful (how's that
for an invitation?)
I guess my question is, how ought one to deal with one's own biases?
It is hard to balance what one often does not notice. Is it better to
stay away from a relativistic reading altogether?
2)I think it is clear that in some cases it is valuable to trace
certain philosophies through a text-- there really are some stories
in which the author's philosophy comes through so strongly that if
the reader does not recognize it, they are missing something. On the
other hand, when I see things like Lacan theory, I am utterly
befuddled-- I do not see the patterns at all. (No offense to the
Lacanites-- I have a very wonderful prof that adores him.)
Isn't it alright in cases such as Lewis and Flannery O'Conner to
trace the Christian influences? I really don't think that one can
properly understand their texts without looking at that aspect. And
obviously there are parts of Langston Hughes' work that cannot
properly be understood without tracing African-American theory
through it. But should one stick to one form of Theory and interpret
everything through that light? Or should it be a case-by-case
decision? And does every text have a cetain theory it would be better
interpreted through? For instance, I think that Shakespeare has many
works that are best studied in the context of history rather than
through a specific Theory.
3)And speaking of Shakespeare-- I think Carl is right in that
sometimes a ghost is more valuable as a ghost than as a repression.
The ghost is weird and frightening and altogether delightful in an
aesthetic sense. A repression strikes me as sordid. If the
interpretation does not add to the value of the text then scrap it, I
say. An interpretation is not so close to truth that I need value it
- In a message dated 9/3/2002 7:32:49 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> I hope this isn't too long. I will subdivide it. First of all--Yep, I am, and it's a lot of fun! And yes, Inez is in the English PhD
> Susan, you're teaching a Tolkien course? I'm so jealous! No, I don't
> know your friend. Is she in the English program? I do know Bruce
> Edwards, who some of you may know.
program, but her emphasis is Comp/Rhet, so she's teaching mostly freshman
comp, I guess. She's a big Tolkien fan, though, and might be a fun person
for you to talk to.
> Many people think that one's faith ought to color everything oneThe way to deal with one's own biases is a) to announce them up-front and be
> does. But then, many of those same people would often criticize
> people who allow Feminism, Marxism or their sexual orientation to
> color everything they do. I cannot decide where I ought to stand. It
> is something that I need to work out before I start really writing,
> however-- and I'm behind because I'm presenting my first paper in a
> month! So any advice one way or another would be helpful (how's that
> for an invitation?)
> I guess my question is, how ought one to deal with one's own biases?
> It is hard to balance what one often does not notice. Is it better to
> stay away from a relativistic reading altogether?
as aware of them as possible, b) to remain exquisitely aware of the fact that
other kinds of readings are both possible and, on occasion, necessary, and c)
to try to be scrupulously careful about whether one's biases are, on this
occasion, appropriate (it's safe to read Tolkien and O'Conner through a
Christian lens; other writers are less conducive to this approach).
Our identities color our lives, which is all well and good, and as it should
be. The trick is to remain sensitive and welcoming to *other* identities.
(And I'm speaking here as a Christian feminist, an identity some folks would
consider oxymoronic: but hey, we're all vast and contain multitudes.)
Good luck with your paper!
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- --- In mythsoc@y..., SusanPal@a... wrote:
> Janet --And you'll be sure to mention Tolkien's connection to Auden,
> That Auden piece is great. I'm going to give it to the students in
> my Tolkien course, some of whom have been engaging in one-sided
I was a bit worried there when I read the list. It could be said
that I try to do all the things in Auden's list, and as a long-time
critic-basher I would have to concede to being a hypocrite if that
But since I've often been accused of monovistic interpretation, I
suppose I need not have been concerned at all.
I will now return to my pseudo-Freudian nit-picking in complete
harmony with my non-critical nature....
- In a message dated 9/7/2002 4:06:27 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
> And you'll be sure to mention Tolkien's connection to Auden,Yes, I did. :-)
> right? :)
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