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Elements of Hermeneutic Pragmatics

Agency and Interpretation

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Tahir Wood

Can linguistic pragmatics be developed without the need to formulate rules, criteria or maxims? The author argues that rules as they have been conceived of within pragmatics, particularly speech act theory, are limiting and out of step with the linguistic science of recent decades.
Using a hermeneutic approach to pragmatics, this book seeks to bring pragmatics closer to the cognitive paradigm that has transformed the other branches of the linguistic and communication sciences, with the help of developments in certain neighbouring disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and narratology. The elements that are opened up to pragmatics in this approach include some new conceptions of intentionality, intertextuality, communicative action and literary authorship, as well as the subjectivity of interpretation, which by its very nature ceaselessly transforms all forms of communication in its historical spiral.
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Chapter 7: Hermeneutic Elements of Reading

Extract

CHAPTER 7

Hermeneutic Elements of Reading

Variation in ‘reading’

Before taking the literary discussion further, it is important to devote some space to a consideration of the reader, whose interests were invoked in the previous chapter. Here we need to deal with variation amongst readers in terms of their interests and competence and how these determine actual readings. The question of the expertise of the reader leads to an important consideration, how he or she is immersed in what has become known as intertextuality. This refers to the way in which a reader is positioned in relation to the prior discourse in which meanings have previously been constructed, such positioning being a source of particularly strong variation in interpretation.

‘To read’ is ambiguous. In one sense, one may read aloud without comprehension. Such ‘reading’ is actually practised in certain religious traditions. Clearly reading in this sense affords no real possibilities of introjection for the reader; it is a form of iteration without ideation.

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