The academic debate on the interpretation of literary texts has always suffered from the semantic ambiguity of key concepts (literature, meaning,interpretation, literary study, etc.). To get out of this dead end, literary scholars have to step back from their daily routine from time to time to consider what kind of activity they are actually engaged in, since nothing in academia is natural or self-evident; instead, all is contingent. That is,scholars are not talking about literary texts as givens or data; they are talking about problems they have with what they deem literary items. If literary scholars aim at a scientific solution for their respective problems,they have to meet the usual standards of science; that is, they have to solve explicitly spelled-out problems via explicit problem-solving strategies or methods. This holds equally true for all problems subsumed under the title“interpretation.” The point is not can interpretation be reasonable, possible, or neglectable; rather, can literary scholars perform the operation called interpretation in terms of theory-guided operationalized productions of experiential knowledge which can be stabilized in respective scholarly discourses via communicative connectability and intersubjective inspection.
Siegfried J. Schmidt; Interpretation: The Story Does Have an Ending. Poetics Today 1 December 2000; 21 (4): 621–632. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-21-4-621
Download citation file: