English 203

Graduate Readings: On Interpretation

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2019 Blanton, C. D.
MW 12-1:30 305 Wheeler


The last several decades have heard repeated, even rhythmic, calls to dispense with ‘interpretation’ as the model and indispensable methodological instrument of reading and critical reason, even within intellectual disciplines seemingly constituted by a history of interpretive practice. But the fact that such calls find themselves so regularly renewed again might also suggest the tenacity of the problem of interpretation as such, even a certain difficulty in avoiding interpretation in the name of avoiding interpretation.

This course will seek to approach this apparent contradiction from two directions. From one angle, we will survey a few of the more pitched battles over interpretation and interpretability, scattered across the intellectual history of the postwar period. From another, we will track a much longer history, sampling a series of hermeneutic systems and traditions that insist on reading behind, beyond, before, and beside—from traditional modes of scriptural exegesis to modern practices of dialectical and psychoanalytic encryption and decryption.

To concentrate our reading, each student will be asked to designate one object (textual, aesthetic, philosophical, or otherwise) to which interpretation itself might return over the course of the term.

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