Publication Year: 2006
Suzy Anger investigates the relationship of Victorian interpretation to the ways in which literary criticism is practiced today. Her primary focus is literary interpretation, but she also considers fields such as legal theory, psychology, history, and the natural sciences in order to establish the pervasiveness of hermeneutic thought in Victorian culture. Anger's book demonstrates that much current thought on interpretation has its antecedents in the Victorians, who were already deeply engaged with the problems of interpretation that concern literary theorists today.
Anger traces the development and transformation of interpretive theory from a religious to a secular (and particularly literary) context. She argues that even as hermeneutic theory was secularized in literary interpretation it carried in its practice some of the religious implications with which the tradition began. She further maintains that, for the Victorians, theories of interpretation are often connected to ethical principles and suggests that all theories of interpretation may ultimately be grounded in ethical theories.
Beginning with an examination of Victorian biblical exegesis, in the work of figures such as Benjamin Jowett, John Henry Newman, and Matthew Arnold, the book moves to studies of Thomas Carlyle, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde. Emphasizing the extent to which these important writers are preoccupied with hermeneutics, Anger also shows that consideration of their thought brings to light questions and qualifications of some of the assumptions of contemporary criticism.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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This project was supported in its early stages by a fellowship at theUniversity of Washington. I am also grateful to the American Council ofLearned Societies for a fellowship grant, to the University of Maryland fora faculty research fellowship, and to the National Endowment for theAn earlier version of Chapter 2 was published in Texas Studies in...
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It is one of the characteristics of recent thought that it distrusts its ownactivity,” wrote Henry Jones, a professor of philosophy at UniversityCollege, in 1891. “Thought,” he continued, “has become aware of its ownactivity; men realize more clearly than they did in former times that theapparent constitution of things depends directly on the character of the...
Victorian Scriptural Hermeneutics
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First, it may be laid down that Scripture has one meaning—the meaningwhich it had to the mind of the prophet or evangelist who first utteredIn a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, andCritics no longer insist upon “a dogmatic faith in the plenary verbalinspiration of every one of Shakespeare’s clowns,” quipped Pater in an...
Victorian Legal Interpretation
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Would you some day inform them that in a legal document words haveto be interpreted in a legal sense: and not by private feelings of whateverkind they may be. . . . They do not understand that legal documents areCharles Dickens’s Bleak House, as critics have often noted, is concernedwith the problems of interpretation in many ways, with Chancery’s...
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History is a real Prophetic Manuscript, and can be fully interpreted byFor indeed it is well said, “in every object there is inexhaustible mean-In a review article of 1891 Wilhelm Dilthey describes Carlyle as “thegreatest English writer of our century.”1 It is not surprising that Dilthey,the transitional figure between nineteenth-century Romantic hermeneu-...
Victorian Science and Hermeneutics
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The facts of the external world are marks, in which man discovers ameaning and so reads them. Man is the Interpreter of Nature, andCarlyle, as we have seen, regarded all human knowledge as symbolic“interpretation” of the absolute. Notwithstanding his early training in thesciences and onetime aspiration to pursue a scientific career, he did not...
George Eliot’s Hermeneutics of Sympathy
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While it is true, in one sense, that the thoughts and feelings of othersare inaccessible to us, in another sense it is inadmissible. . . . It is truethat your subjective state can only be an objective fact to me, except inso far as I am able to interpret the objective fact in its subjectiveaspect. But this is true of all facts. . . . The psychologist interprets cer-...
Victorian Literary Criticism
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The members of the Browning Society, like the theologians of the BroadChurch Party, or the authors of Mr. Walter Scott’s Great Writers Series,seem to me to spend their time in trying to explain their divinity away.Victorian literary criticism, a much richer and more complex activity thanhas sometimes been allowed, is a subject that deserves at least several...
Subjectivism, Intersubjectivity, and Intention
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Who, again, cares whether Mr. Pater has put into the portrait of theI noticed it because it made a suggestion about the intention of theIf a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authorityover it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannotreceive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to domi-...
Hermeneutics and the Self
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If the superior psycho-physical mechanism of vision can in dream lifeseize upon what is really nothing but rows of meaningless blackish spotsupon the retina and can convert them into imagined pages of printwhich may be read with great satisfaction off-hand in a dream, what is itnot capable of achieving? That it can cut all manner of capers in...
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Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2006