Validity in Interpretation

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Yale University Press, Jan 1, 1967 - Philosophy - 287 pages
"Here is a book that brings logic to the most unruly of disciplines, literary interpretation. . . . This study is a necessary took for anyone who wants to talk sense about literature."--Virginia Quarterly Review

By demonstrating the uniformity and universality of the principles of valid interpretation of verbal texts of any sort, this closely reasoned examination provides a theoretical foundation for a discipline that is fundamental to virtually all humanistic studies. It defines the grounds on which textual interpretation can claim to establish objective knowledge, defends that claim against such skeptical attitudes as historicism and psychologism, and shows that many confusions can be avoided if the distinctions between meaning and significance, interpretation and criticism are correctly understood.

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What is Hirsch's stand with regard to the recovery of the authorial intention?
Distinction between D'meaning' and 'significant' and 'interpretation' and 'criticism'.

Contents

IN DEFENSE OF THE AUTHOR
1
Only What His Text Says
10
MEANING AND IMPLICATION
24
Symptomatic Meanings
51
THE CONCEPT OF GENRE
68
UNDERSTANDING INTERPRETATION
127
PROBLEMS AND PRINCIPLES OF VALIDATION
164
OBJECTIVE INTERPRETATION
209
GADAMERS THEORY OF INTERPRETATION
245
AN EXCURSUS ON TYPES
265
Index
275
Copyright

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About the author (1967)

Hirsch is a conservative critic best known for his repudiation of critical approaches to literature (chiefly poststructuralism and New Criticism) that assume that the author's intentions do not determine readings. He argues that any such methodology is guilty of "the organic fallacy," the belief that the text leads a life of its own. For Hirsch, the author's authority is the key to literary interpretation: The critic's job is to reproduce textual meaning by recovering the author's consciousness, which guarantees the validity of an interpretation. In his two most important books, Validity in Interpretation (1967) and its sequel, The Aims of Interpretation (1976), Hirsch warns against the "critical anarchy" that follows from the "cognitive atheism" of both relativism and subjectivism. For him, these result from a corollary of the organic fallacy, the thesis that meaning is ultimately indeterminate because it changes over time or with the differing interests and values of different readers. According to Hirsch, meaning does not change; only value or significance does, as readers relate a text's fixed meaning to their cultures. If there is more than one valid interpretation of a text, it is because literature may be reduced to more than one "intrinsic genre" or meaning type---the particular set of conventions governing ways of seeing and of making meaning at the time the author was writing. Many critics suggest that the intentions Hirsch recovers in intrinsic genres are really his own, rather than those of the author, because no one, including Hirsch, can escape his or her historically conditioned frame of reference when developing interpretations of literature. Hirsch's recent books, including Cultural Literacy (1987), are seen as proof of those flaws by those who are troubled by the history and values of the dominant culture that Hirsch insists is the only culture. Hirsch argues that "common knowledge" is being denied minority students and others by feminists and other "radicals" who have undermined the authority of its great texts.

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