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|Title:||Transmission and Construction: Gadamer and Benjamin on the Politics of Interpretation|
|Abstract:||<p>In this thesis, I compare the theories of interpretation of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Walter Benjamin. Gadamer and Benjamin explicate the proper task of historical interpretation in opposition to historicism. Historicism, for them, is the view that historical interpretation must, in Ranke's well-known formulation, be true to history "as it really was." Historicists view the temporal distance which separates the present from the past as an epistemological gulf, necessitating the formulation of a method which recaptures historical reality.</p> <p>In the first chapter, I discuss Gadamer's criticism of, and alternative to historicism, as explicated in Truth and Method. According to Gadamer, since the inquirer's understanding is formed by the same tradition that provides the context of significance in which the historical subject matter must be understood, there is a horizon of meaning that unites the inquirer and her subject matter. This horizon, tradition, sets limits which, though always open to revision and extension, constrain the range of legitimate interpretations, revealing a relatively stable historical world. Crucial to Gadamer's position is his view that the transmission of tradition's content is a process which liberates works from the particularity of their origins in specific conditions of production and reception, integrating them in the universalizing context of tradition. Thus, temporal distance is viewed as positive.</p> <p>Benjamin challenges this view. In the second chapter of the thesis, I trace the development of Benjamin's theory of interpretation in terms of his increasing suspicion of transmission as a process that is controlled by interests that exclude some works and interpretations from tradition as it is handed down, in favour of those that stabilize the self-understanding of the ruling class. For Benjamin. the process of transmission does not serve to reveal works in their universality, but rather continually reaffirms a complex of interpretations that serve particular interests. Benjamin's alternative is a procedure which uncovers the particular social origins of dominant interpretive frameworks, thus freeing the contents of tradition for new interpretations constructed from the perspective of those who are marginalized in the present. I conclude that Benjamin's critique oftransmission reveals important political presuppositions in Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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