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Hyphenated Hermeneutics - New Locations for Reading?


Do we need a new hermeneutics? - This question is rhetorical and currently only seems to be sensible. But it is precisely this appearance that indicates the dilemma in which current reading practice finds itself. In the change in reading practice accelerated by digitization, it literally breaks out, because in it hermeneutics proves to be an ethical project that is indispensable for communication and reading, which at the same time is itself affected by the very diversification that is set in motion by the technologically forced rationality has been. The philosophically irritating, Germanistic or general literary and linguistic pluralization in many subject or sub-subject-specific hermeneutics testifies to the current problem of hermeneutics as well as to its indispensability. The demand for a new hermeneutics therefore firstly requires the diagnosis of how and where its varieties are currently located, in order to then target the common place that simultaneously holds the hermeneutics together in the 'we' of the question. The possible diagnoses for this will again turn out to be different. But only in total do they - according to the thesis of the editors of the Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik - make a contribution to the reassurance of the current problem of understanding.


Do we need a new hermeneutics? - This question is rhetorical and seems only reasonable at the moment. But it is precisely this appearance that once again indicates the dilemma in which current reading practice finds itself. In the transformation of reading practice accelerated by digitalization, it breaks open, for hermeneutics proves to be an ethical project that is indispensable for communication and reading, and at the same time is itself affected by the very diversification that was set in motion by a technologically forced rationality. Thus, the philosophically irritating, Germanistic or general literary and linguistic pluralization into many, subject- or sub-subject-specific hermeneutics bears witness to the current problem of hermeneutics as well as to its indispensability. The demand for a New Hermeneutics thus presupposes first of all a diagnosis of how and where its varieties are currently located, in order to then target the common site that simultaneously holds hermeneutics together in the ›we‹ of the question. The possible diagnoses will again be different. But only in their totality - according to the thesis of the editors of the Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik - will they contribute to a reassurance about the current problem of understanding.

To the empty promise of digital reason

Hermeneutics is necessary: ​​In view of the everyday failure of the Enlightenment in cultural practice, this should be a fairly consensual formula. One might agree with her based on the impression that central competencies in the reflective handling of language and text seem to be disappearing at the moment. Superficially, one can certainly regard this general change in the understanding of reading as one of the much-discussed effects of digitization, which can be observed particularly in the education system and in the area of ​​popular cultures. And yet, in the superficial loss of competence, the profound dilemma of enlightened rationality is likely to emerge again, in which the old power of discourse is confirmed in an almost banal way.

That is why it is also risky to entrust yourself to this discourse again immediately, for example by telling the change in linguistic and textual possibilities as a story of decline. After all, beyond such a narrative and its implicit evaluations, one can say: Where language and text are no longer seen through and are adequately mastered, because the terms of reading and text comprehension are scientifically shortened, where one entrusts oneself to the discrete preselection and control of the algorithms instead , there is a peculiar carelessness in dealing with processes of meaning formation. With a view to the failed project of the Enlightenment, one could almost call it the entrance into a new, self-inflicted immaturity.

This new immaturity is perhaps most clearly evident in the fact that the algorithms' promises of salvation are now revealing their characteristic downside. The promise of digital rationality to make the world easily and conveniently accessible leads, in view of the exhausting plurality, lack of commitment and confusion of ›postmodern‹ realities, to the disturbed, and often enough outraged, question of why they have to be so heterogeneous, complicated and difficult. And where this question is then answered with further simplifications, the anti-critical myth that today disguises itself as user-friendliness threatens to become fully effective.

But if Friedrich Kittler is right here,Footnote 1 then he is in truth unfriendly because he secretly masters and ultimately uses the readers via his user interfaces. In his access to the data world, the readers themselves become part of the data set. The rationality of the new, effortless reading obeys a system that she invented, but which in turn denies her the opportunity to think beyond this rationality.

Precisely where this circle starts, the reading term gradually becomes noticeably deficient: because it is shortened by the semantic productivity of its paradoxes and opposites, which justifies it in the first place to speak of a reading instead of simply reading.Footnote 2 Even the most carefree readers will realize at some point that the mere consumption of texts results in senseless reception practice: since reading is only simulated here. This dubious tendency to simulate reading is well known, especially from academic teaching. Its effects become clear in the frustration of students who have only prepared themselves with Wikipedia articles for their opinions on literary texts that they either did not understand in a cursory reading or did not read at all - and who then blame their courses for it give not to understand literature.

What is not understood here, however, is the understanding itself. The paradoxes of reading plunge these new readers into desperation because they are now used to seemingly consistent, systematically simplifying solutions. The process of interpretation appears to her reading habitus as a risk between Scylla and Charybdis, not only because interpretations of the literature in the dichotomy of right and wrong generally do not work. Rather, the new readers feel that they are also asked in the process of understanding and, as subjects, are responsible for their results. Reading cannot be simulated. That is why it does not go into artificial intelligence - if not the expression of artificial intelligence one contradictio in adjecto is.

Whether one can get out of these technical text problems if one only appeals again to the critical spirit of the Enlightenment or even to Schleiermacher's minimum requirement of "acquaintance with the subject and the language"Footnote 3 remembered is highly doubtful. For there are good reasons to argue that it is ultimately an enlightening impetus of rationality that overshoots the target and reveals one's own rational achievements that is historically behind these circular effects. So the unwavering belief in a universal rationality is apparently already responsible for that everyday indignation, out of which on the one hand unpleasant representations of reality as fake news insulted, but on the other hand insists on the possibility of 'alternative facts' that only increase the uncertainties in the face of this reality with which the outrage can then be reignited. Intuitively, this hysterical feedback mechanism, which is transparent from an emotional theory point of view, already means that loss of orientation that is not only technically and rationally explainable, but also technically and rationally conditioned. Pure unreason is a late consequence of a problem of meaning that rationalized reason has left behind. It is already evident in the increasingly discussed beginnings of philosophical hermeneutics in the context of the Enlightenment,Footnote 4 where this tried to methodologically eliminate the productive openness of meaning with the help of a mathematically necessary rationality: in the form of a logically closed circle of interpretation, the deficiency of which has already been re-established by philosophical hermeneutics.Footnote 5

On the self-rational interpretation of communication

If today it appears to be contemporary and (to the naive observer) possible to completely overcome hermeneutic traditions in favor of the statistical analysis of large text corpora or machine language processing, this may of course also be due to the not infrequently observed "pure irrationality" ( see above) in dealing with texts, which was justified, celebrated and demanded as freedom of the reader in the still powerful postmodern interpretation theories.Footnote 6 At the same time, it threatened to be forgotten that a well-understood hermeneutics is rooted in Greco-Latin rationalism and - in contrast to the pre-ancient "hermetics" that is still alive today (for example in conspiracy theories) - the strict scientific-theoretical claim of Falsifiability redeems on the basis of a "social contract" that allows sensible handling of the text's intention (intentio operis) ensures and limits.Footnote 7

Umberto Eco points out in a clarification of the term text intention - as a distinction both from the intention of the empirical author (intentio auctoris) as well as the respective intention that an empirical reader understands (intentio lectoris) - within the framework of a (thoroughly normative) semiotic hermeneutics that "the author's words form a rather cumbersome bundle of tangible indications that the reader may not simply pass over in silence or chatting"Footnote 8. From this it can be concluded: "Between the unfathomable intention of the author and the contestable intention of the reader lies the transparent text intention, because of which untenable interpretations fail."Footnote 9 A hermeneutical text interpretation understood in this way, which is not least based on the systematic basis of a linguistic theory of text communicationFootnote 10 can be unfolded does not have to be tamed empirically and logically, since they already do this - in a sensible way - in a certain way per se is.Footnote 11

Against this background, it may seem understandable if those who still (or again) affirmatively refer to ›hermeneutical‹ bases today use a specific ›hyphen‹ to indicate that they are not referring to any common type of hermeneutics, but rather a particular scientific Type of game, the characteristics of which the attribute says, just think of the semiotic Hermeneutics, linguistic Hermeneutics, objective Hermeneutics, Deep hermeneutics, social science Hermeneutics, Everyday Hermeneutics and Discourse hermeneutics, to name just a few. Also the as Neo-hermeneutics Approaches in literary studies marked out (see below) emphasize tradition and innovation equally, even if the name does not yet give any indication of which knowledge base is to be tied to and in which direction the journey should go.

In any case, a scientifically justified rejection of hermeneutics in parts of the humanities and social sciences today seems to have varied approaches, among others. in the linguistics and literary studies to stand opposite hermeneutics as a scientific practice with a high level of individual, interdisciplinary and social topicality and relevanceFootnote 12 theoretically and empirically, especially in view of the changing communication and media conditions and the associated methodological and practical research potential for science itself, trying to develop further (for example under the keyword mixed methods).

Scientific repression processes and their self-acceleration

The idea that the hermeneutics through sciences can and must be replaced is not infrequently based on a fundamental lack of clarity about what exactly is meant by 'hermeneutics'. As Fritz Hermanns shows on the basis of semantic analyzes, the expression relates Hermeneutics to a

»Conglomerate of the most heterogeneous entities, namely of events (comprehension events), activities (explaining and teaching), abilities (arts of understanding and explaining), instructions for action (rules) and stocks of knowledge (theories, theory fragments), insofar as they only have something to do with understanding. This relation makes the individual meanings of the word Hermeneutics metonymic (to each other). "Footnote 13

It depends less on the heterogeneity of the entities than on the context that (potentially) connects hermeneutic practice and its result, methodology, empiricism and theory: Understand for his part, Hermanns summarizes as a two-digit predicate that certain relations of the Recognizing of something as something else, and that goes far beyond communicative manifestations, such as those at the center of social-scientific conceptions of hermeneutics:Footnote 14 "We call knowledge understanding above all when connections, reasons and causes, purposes and functions, meanings and meaning are recognized."Footnote 15

While a simple one Recognize represents the unproblematic case, it always becomes demanding when both the knowledge to be recognized and the knowledge required for understanding (among other things) first have to be (re) constructed. From understanding (as event and Result) is to be distinguished according to Hermanns Interpret, a communicative, perceptible one plotwhich is supposed to explain (own) understanding to another for a specific purpose, as well as Apply of texts in the context-specific production of decisions, for example in law or in the sermon interpreting the scripturesFootnote 16

Against this background of such a definition of terms, the conceptually skewed opposition ascribed to Wilhelm Dilthey must be between Understand as a humanities and To explain as a natural science modus operandi seem absurd, as Hermanns conclusively explains:

“The two terms cannot form a pair of opposites at all, because they are not at all hyponyms. In all natural sciences, too, it is of course a matter of understanding something (including causal relationships) and, conversely, the cultural sciences cannot, of course, do without explaining the phenomena they represent. H. to make understandable. "Footnote 17

All of this is thoroughly rational. The consequences, on the other hand, of an attempt to tame the sense of understanding, which seems naive in its excessive belief in rationality, can be seen every day in the irreconcilable agony of those readings in which understanding and understanding are no longer sought. That is why it is not understandable why, after the enlightenment promise of the new digital freedoms of the network has failed, it should be averted through the clarification of their risks. This risk can at least be observed with the help of classical systems theory. But it too is reaching its epistemic limit. Due to her notorious tension with hermeneutics, in which she again simulates rather than reproduces its paradoxes, she lacks the last chance to interpret the problem of meaning.Footnote 18 At the same time, it becomes clear again in their newer, literary variants: The Enlightenment Circle is missing something, which is why it only reproduces its deficit in its acceleration. The ever increasing pace of information movements is not only a reaction to the loss of meaning, it is also driving its inflation forward. To put it more pointedly: Ultimately, a completely enlightened rationality in its strict functionality is meaningless, just as ultimately a purely technical-rational system can only simulate the meaning that it wants to observe. With critical thinking, which the Enlightenment fully helped to breakthrough, it is certainly possible to keep conscious not only of the limits of the Enlightenment, but also of its rationality.But what matters - in public discourse as well as in dealing with literature - is evidently the very meaning which this rationality has shifted beyond its own epistemic limit, which - especially with Kant's transcendental philosophy - has become completely transcendent through this rationality.

Reading Practice and New Hermeneutics: Symptoms of a Crisis?

But even in view of this distance, the following should apply: the promise of simplicity of a short-circuit, closed explanation would be a rational deception - that is why an objection of the old hermeneutics in this new situation seems legitimate. Of course, this objection to the historical distance between concept and cultural phenomenon is at least correct: the old hermeneutics will have to be revised in view of the new reading practice and its agonal consequences.

The demand for such a hermeneutics in view of the new reading is, at least in parts, quite cheap. Because not only has the label of New Hermeneutics been around for a long time, the change it indicates has already taken place. But, irritatingly, this turn in hermeneutics is neither reflected in the new label nor is it definitely related to the practice of the new reading. The term ›neo-hermeneutics‹ can be found either in an extension narrowed to the genuinely literary scholarly discussion of authorship or in the theological-existentialist variant as a postulate of one New Hermeneutic.Footnote 19

This may make it seem justified to give in to the postmodern impulse and give up the universality of hermeneutics in order to only speak of hermeneutics in the plural. However, this dissolves the methodological understanding of philosophical hermeneutics in favor of a scientific understanding of methodology, which makes it more sensible to speak of a metatheory of different interpretative theories instead of hermeneutics.Footnote 20 With the pure theoretical claim one maneuvers oneself into a dead end. That is why one must first ask about the practical influence of traditional, post-Enlightenment hermeneutics today and the current level of hermeneutic awareness, most obviously for everyday academic teaching practice. It was already clear that this has already been referred to as New Hermeneutics. But despite the labeling of the supposedly 'new', it can still be observed in everyday university business that the very keyword of hermeneutics still triggers critical resentment, at least among Germanists.

Linguistic aspects: the inevitability of hermeneutics (s)

In the German linguistics those discourse communities who are familiar with a hermeneutical reflection of their actions (more or less in-depth) are faced with research scenes that position themselves completely indifferent, if not negative, in view of the hermeneutics. Reasons for this are - besides those already outlined general scientific misunderstandings - subject-specific in the usual juxtaposition of a Langue or competence linguistics, which stands for (universal) »laws, forms and structures«Footnote 21 of the language system, and a ›parole linguistics‹ that focuses on the use of linguistic signs in communication.Footnote 22 Since signs are to be regarded as ›media‹ from the point of view of their materiality and operativity in communication,Footnote 23 the abstract object ›language‹ fans out according to various media modes of existence, of which the interaction and linguistic co-operation linked to the human bodyFootnote 24 represents a special case among others among those present in space and time. Among other things, the modes of existence of language based on writing and ›legibility‹ can be placed alongside this,Footnote 25 which for their part are to be further fanned out in the media from the point of view of their situationality.

While the slogan itself is about processes of understanding that need to be explained in terms of language theory,Footnote 26 what a at least also Langue linguistics seems to suggest a hermeneutic approach - for example in the area of ​​the apparatus-based measurement of sounds or the statistical evaluation of corpus data based on pure surface phenomenaFootnote 27 - to be able to do without hermeneutics at first sight. It should be noted, however, that the linguistic symbol itself is a two-digit number, so that expression and content can usually not be viewed independently of one another.Footnote 28 In addition, as already explained above, every justification of an object is a hermeneutic act. If meanings are discussed or explained in grammar (communicative) functions or in lexicology, the interpretive part is often only implicit, but indispensable.Footnote 29

Linguistics therefore needs hermeneutics both on the basis of its subject and in terms of methodology and theory.Footnote 30 Accordingly, since the 1970s at the latest, there has been a hermeneutical reflection, for example with Ludwig Jäger in the context of a cultural studies linguistics that ties in with the language-theoretical tradition of the Enlightenment and Romanticism,Footnote 31 or with Rudi Keller in the context of speech act theory,Footnote 32 which deals with the understanding and interpretation of linguistic action. Since the 1980s, hermeneutic traditions in linguistics have been further processed and supplemented subject-specifically.Footnote 33 In addition to the core areas of the language system, her subjects include texts and types of texts, conversations and types of conversation, linguistic practices, terms and discourses, both abstract and with a view to the remarkable individual case (e.g. a political speech),Footnote 34 even if one has to be content with the truth claim of intersubjective, argumentatively established plausibility in the case of single text interpretations (as in many other areas of academic work).Footnote 35

The programmatic demand raised in such contexts, a "linguistic hermeneutics" as interdisciplinary networked Sub-subject to establish the linguistics is today (again) the attempt to establish the entire To justify linguistics as "hermeneutic linguistics" from this point of view.Footnote 36 Jochen Bär works out that even a genuinely linguistic subject area such as structurally founded historical semantics - especially where it strictly adheres to collocations of lexical signs systematically structured by grammatical constructions - neither objective structures nor the knowledge of historical semantics Communication process can grasp participants, but that they always describe and explain the historical linguistic system from the perspective of the linguistic interpreter in the present:

»From the point of view of historical semantics, a sign does not have a meaning per se, but only ever receives it through the interpretation of a receiving authority. The meaning of a linguistic sign, as it can be specified by historical semantics, is the cotext of the sign, which is structured by it on the basis of philological knowledge of the language: the ensemble of other signs with which the sign is functionally linked after its interpretation means: to which it is according to certain rules she has seen. "Footnote 37

German linguistics has also been using genuin since the 1970s social science Approaches that focus on the concept of interaction or communication and that refer to these phenomena as ›meaningful social events‹ based on the use of signs in them.Footnote 38 try to fathom understandingly.Footnote 39 Although such objects are essentially processes of understanding, not all of these approaches have an adequate theory of interpretation.Footnote 40 This applies, for example, to conversation analysis, which, in connection with interpretation problems, requires a controlled extension to include a ethnographic Component needs.Footnote 41 Conversely, the German-speaking social sciences have been grappling with problems of hermeneutics since the 1970s, partly with a view to structural, ›objective‹ societal knowledge that is reproduced as unconscious, latent (deep) meaning structures in interaction (›objective hermeneutics‹) , partly with regard to a methodologically reflected reconstruction of the (everyday) meaning that the participants always produce together with one another when recourse to knowledge they have brought with them (›sociological hermeneutics‹, ›hermeneutic sociology of knowledge‹).Footnote 42

In the media present, more or less human-like, language processing technologies pose a special theoretical challenge for linguistic and resp. as sociological hermeneutics, whose virtual ›ability to dialogue‹ and ›agency‹ are up for discussion:Footnote 43 To explain them, a descriptive language is required that avoids anthropocentric stipulations as well as the hasty symmetrization of human and technical contributions and those in the tradition of Workplace Studies consistently empirically makes the interweaving of technology with human (background) cooperation a topic.Footnote 44

Aspects of literary studies: On the methodological deficit of the theory

In literary studies, the resentments towards hermeneutics are often based on the supposed traditionalism of the old hermeneutics. However, these resentments are themselves quite traditional; H. understandable from one's own specialist history, which initially includes historicism as the special form of historical thinking typical of German humanities, in which, via the historical hermeneutics of Johann Gustav Droysen, the concept of the "history of impact" becomes important for Hans-Georg Gadamer. Above all, the ontological basis of understanding, emphasized by Martin Heidegger's influence, appears in a critical light, as if Gadamer's proclaimed ›horizon merging‹ between interpreter and historical object was also assigned an immovable semantic element. It is also not always clear whether where the philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer is still critically addressed across the board, so that it is not actually just the old interpretation practice in the sense of Emil Staiger that is in view.Footnote 45

The fact that in all of this there is also the threat of disguised naive intentionalism, which would ultimately only oblige the reader to understand what the author would once have wanted to say historically, remains unspoken. Without this prejudice against hermeneutics in the humanities, however, it is unlikely to understand why hermeneutics ultimately reappeared so prominently in the authorship discussion - under the heading of neo-hermeneutics.Footnote 46

At least one has to note that the accusation of traditionalism outside of the European humanities framework apparently has little evidence. This probably has to do with the fact that the Anglo-Saxon philosophy of history does not automatically consider the traditional orientation of historicism in view of the concept of impact history and is therefore able to turn it much more easily in exactly the opposite direction. Otherwise Gadamer's hermeneutics could hardly have been used here as a key witness to the historical openness and dynamism of postmodern processes of meaning formation.Footnote 47

If one would like to resolve the traditionalism accusation in the sense of this turning point from the outset using the author's concept, one could already refer to Schleiermacher's classic dictum that it is important to understand the speech "better than its author",Footnote 48 But this better understanding already contains the paradox of a deeper detachment from the postulated creation of meaning. In the German academic reception, however, the innovation potential of this semantic basic paradox had to be specifically emphasized in a critical counterpoint to Gadamer's hermeneutics: in the aesthetic reception concept of ›horizon lift‹ in the context of the discussions in the vicinity of the research group ›poetics and hermeneutics‹.Footnote 49 Because the lifting of the horizon seemed to be applied as a critical counter-term to the merging of the horizon, the historical openness of hermeneutics, ie. H. their sensitivity to semantic innovations in the reading process, but rather downplayed than emphasized. Instead, there was the possibility of specifying the concept of understanding from a literary perspective, because it could be linked to existing literary concepts, in particular that of formalism, via the dialectic of norm and deviation, or it could be further developed in the direction of a phenomenologically guided, semiotic reception aesthetic.

However, these connections are significant in that the distance emphasized in the lifting of the horizon, be it due to the historical-temporal distance or the modern reception disposition, is at the same time converted into a relationship between text and theory. The same distance between text and theory emerges once again that critical modernity considers itself to be good in dealing with its objects, but with a point that philosophical hermeneutics does not know. In particular, Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics does not see itself as a radically distant, differentiating theory H. Rather, a theory of interpretation can only be spoken of in a paradoxical sense: Because hermeneutics is always theory and practice at the same time, it is a self-reflective method that deals with the Knowing the unfulfillability of theoretical promises in practice as well as recognizing the blindness of practice without theoretical reflection. As a counterpart to this understanding of methods, the persistent hermeneutic meditations by Paul Ricœur can be seen, who, instead of restricting the hermeneutics by individual theories, criticized different theoretical approaches from psychology, narratology and structuralism from the point of view of the hermeneutic method.Footnote 50

At precisely this point, the high theoretical affinity of the recent discussions about literature, text and media leads to a split relationship with hermeneutics. Where interpretation in the technical sense becomes analysis,Footnote 51 where literary studies may even see itself as analytical in a philosophical sense, the hermeneutic project appears to be theoretically deficient. In place of the hermeneutic distance relationship, there is a difference relationship that now makes it possible to classify different interpretation theories that have to be differentiated from one another. In a universal hermeneutics, however, these no longer work.Footnote 52 The generalizing methodological claim of hermeneutics is thus resolved - and ultimately the legitimacy of its paradox is traditionally disputed with logic of difference.

Historicization and New Reading: Opportunities for the Non-Simultaneous

How precarious this way of thinking is from a historical point of view is shown by the thesis that there is a ›this side of hermeneutics‹ whose semantic immediacy is preferably dreamed up in the Middle Ages.Footnote 53 However, there has never been more beyond hermeneutics than in the Middle Ages - so-called medieval hermeneutics, i.e. H. the doctrine of the threefold sense of writing, or the fourfold sense of writing, behind which this thesis of the Middle Ages believes it can fall back as a symbolic present-tense and concise culture, is epistemologically impossible to evade across the board.Footnote 54 For although from the point of view of the later, post-Enlightenment philosophical hermeneutics, one has to say that the medieval art theory lacks the freedom for self-reflection on the sign levels of interpretation due to its normative claim from which the concept of method of hermeneutics is derived, it is precisely not proto-hermeneutics .

On the contrary: it appears to be an attempt at a theoretical-systematic channeling of hermeneutic freedom, which, in view of the wonders of creation, is just as systematically overwhelmed as later in other ways the enlightenment reason. In contrast, the postulate of the medieval this side of hermeneutical difficulties seems like a typically modern, differential logic fantasy of simplicity, which extracts a kind of fundamental ontology from Heidegger's philosophical position that is difficult to read from it, because it would ultimately be simply anti-hermeneutic.Footnote 55 Of course, if there had been such a medieval this side of hermeneutics, the above-mentioned resentment towards modern hermeneutics in the logic of difference logic would also be completely right.

Exactly in the opposite direction to such theoretically or historically distancing tendencies, hermeneutics develops as a demanding project only where literary studies think further beyond the taxonomies of differential logic. Under the influence of deconstruction, 'distant understanding' has proven to be a subtle answer to the aporias of binary sign thinking, which not only have to be endured in the act of interpretation in postmodernism, but which are also to be dialectically canceled here.Footnote 56 The new reading term, which emerged in the course of the discussions about the varieties of deconstruction through the orientation towards the difference and writing concepts of Jacques Derrida on the one hand and the rhetorical literary conception of Paul de Man on the other, competes with the term Text interpretation by not rejecting it, but rather canceling it: The paradoxical contradiction of every reading, which takes place at the same time with and against the meaning of the signs and therefore already knows a deconstructing element in the act of interpretation, is only inverted here, as it were.

What ultimately establishes the pivotal point of the hermeneutic claim could have been shown in the discussion between Gadamer and Derrida, beyond the attempts at literary studies. With Manfred Frank's philosophy, who productively criticizes Derrida's deconstruction concept as neostructuralism and therefore has earned the label of neo-hermeneutics,Footnote 57 one can ask here whether the newer hermeneutics and deconstruction cannot be understood as two sides of the same coin. According to this discussion, it would not be questions about the author, the intention, the tradition or the ontological basis that serve as the basis for this new neo-hermeneutics, which has been turned by deconstruction. Rather, it reveals itself, especially in literature, as a deeply ethical project.Footnote 58 Understanding revolves around axiologies. Through this it promises to end the agonal in the dispute of interpretations. A good interpretation therefore always appears as a valuable reading result.

This brings you back to the kind of reading at which the new readers * become aware of their own orientation difficulties. These orientation difficulties can now be seen as an opportunity to re-establish understanding. To do this, however, the modernity phantasm with its critical rationality optimism would have to be thoroughly overtaken. That the new readers will now encounter a literature that is no longer habitually accessible to them, in which understanding from the outset "no longer arises by itself, but must be searched for in all points",Footnote 59 not only radicalizes the problem of modern alterity, it is at the same time a break in historical distance into the present. The old reading requirements are immediately present and new, because they are an expression of the typically post-modern non-simultaneity of different cultural practices.

However, this non-simultaneity requires a significantly increased degree of self-observation in the process of interpretation. The less you can rely on the well-rehearsed self-understanding of reading, the more carefully you have to consider the paths of your own understanding in every step. It is not enough just to read the text, you have to undergo the reading process yourself. In the everyday process of interpretation, that meta-level of self-reflection emerges anew, to which the methodological understanding of hermeneutics between theory and practice has always aimed - admittedly not as philosophical hermeneutics post rembut as literary hermeneutics in right. Their shift would not be based on the alterity effects of texts and those aesthetic objects that are produced when they are read. She would now be located in the new reader himself, in awe, in fascination and amazement at her own, still alien interpretive possibilities. The issue of the magazine for literary studies and linguistics would like to explore which paths of hermeneutic self-reflection may already have been taken in practice.


  1. 1.

    See Kittler, Friedrich: Gramophone. Movie. Typewriter. Berlin 1986, p. 3 f.

  2. 2.

    See Lobsien, Eckhard: Schematic views. Literary theory with Husserl, Ingarden, Blumenberg. Paderborn / Munich 2012, p. 11 f.

  3. 3.

    Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst: Hermeneutics and Criticism. With an appendix of Schleiermacher's texts on the philosophy of language. Edited and introduced by Manfred Frank. 7th edition Frankfurt a. M. 1999, p. 75.

  4. 4.

    See Bühler, Axel (ed.): Untimely hermeneutics. Understanding and Interpretation in Enlightenment Thinking. Frankfurt a. M. 1994; Bühler, Axel / Cataldi Madonna, Luigi (eds.): Hermeneutics of the Enlightenment (= JSTOR 8, 2 1994); Beetz, Manfred / Cacciatore, Guiseppe (eds.): Hermeneutics in the Age of Enlightenment. Cologne et al. 2000; Danz, Christian: Schelling and the hermeneutics of the Enlightenment. Tübingen 2012.

  5. 5.

    Cf. therefore the keyword ›new hermeneutics‹ for the hermeneutic endeavors since Schleiermacher near Weimar, Klaus: Art. ›Hermeneutik1‹. In: Real Lexicon of German Literary Studies. Revision of the real dictionary of German literary history. Edited by Harald Fricke. Berlin / New York 2007, pp. 25-29; Bogdal, Klaus-Michael: "Problematizing Hermeneutics in the Sign of Post-structuralism". In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold / Heinrich Detering (eds.): Basics of literary studies. Munich 1996, pp. 137-156; Jung, Werner: »Newer Hermeneutics Concepts. Methodical procedures or ingenious outlook? «In: Klaus Michael Bogdal (ed.): New literary theories. An introduction. Opladen 1997 [1990], pp. 159-180.

  6. 6.

    Cf. for example: "A text is like a picnic, to which the author contributes the words and the reader the meaning" (T. Todorow, quoted from Eco, Umberto: Between author and text. Munich 1996 [1992], p. 29 f.).

  7. 7.

    Ibid., Pp. 33, 87.

  8. 8.

    Ibid., P. 30.

  9. 9.

    Ibid., P. 87.

  10. 10.

    See Hausendorf, Heiko et al .: Text communication. A new linguistic approach to the theory and empiricism of communication with and through writing. Berlin / Boston 2017.

  11. 11.

    Anyone who demands more for the claim of scientific nature (such as formalization, strict deduction, experimental repeatability, objective methodology, etc.) is faced with the challenge, which can hardly be met in linguistics and literary studies, of showing that these features are not only partially applicable to one's own scientific practice , rather seen as a whole be valid. See Hermanns, Fritz: Linguistic Hermeneutics. Considerations on the overdue establishment of a sub-subject that has been missing in linguistics. In the S.: The Seat of Language in Life: Contributions to a Culture-Analytical Linguistics. Edited by Heidrun Kämper / Angelika Linke / Martin Wengeler. Berlin / Boston 2012, pp. 67–102, here p. 98 [First published in: Angelika Linke / Hanspeter Ortner / Paul R. Portmann-Tselikas (eds.): Language and more. Views of a linguistics of linguistic practice. Tübingen 2003, pp. 125-163.]; Ders .: »Discourse Hermeneutics«. In the S.: The Seat of Language in Life: Contributions to a Culture-Analytical Linguistics. Edited by Heidrun Kämper / Angelika Linke / Martin Wengeler. Berlin / Boston 2012, pp. 104–126, here p. 110 [First published in: Ingo Warnke (ed.): Discourse linguistics according to Foucault. Theory and objects. Berlin / New York 2007, pp. 187-210.].

  12. 12.

    In general, Hermanns: "Linguistic Hermeneutics" (see note 11), p. 67.

  13. 13.

    Ibid., P. 73.

  14. 14.

    See garlic, Hubert: Sociology of knowledge. Konstanz 2005, pp. 176-182.

  15. 15.

    Hermanns: "Linguistic Hermeneutics" (see note 11), p. 79.

  16. 16.

    See ibid., Pp. 72 f., 88 f.

  17. 17.

    Ibid., P. 89.

  18. 18.

    Compare the criticisms of the system-theoretical basic model in de Berg, Henk / Prangel, Matthias (eds.): Systems theory and hermeneutics. Tübingen 1997. For an approximation in the sociology Schneider, Wolfgang Ludwig advocates: »Hermeneutik und Systemheorie«. In the S.: Basics of sociological theory. Vol. 3: Understanding of meaning and intersubjectivity - hermeneutics, functional analysis, conversation analysis and systems theory. 2nd edition Wiesbaden 2009, pp. 143-292. On the other hand, on the further developments in the basic understanding of literary studies and systems theory, see Werber, Niels (ed.): Systems theoretical literary studies. Concepts - Methods - Applications. Berlin et al. 2011.

  19. 19.

    Compare the term neo-hermeneutics with a view to the problem of intentionalism in Köppe, Tilmann / Winko, Simone: Newer literary theories. An introduction. 2nd, updated and expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, pp. 133–148. See below, note 46. In the field of theology, see Thiselton, Anthony C .: "The New Hermeneutic". In: I. Howard Marshall (Ed.): New Testament interpretation. Essays on Principles and Methods. Carlisle 1992 [1977], pp. 308-333; Ders .: New Horizons in Hermeneutics. The Theory and Practice of Transforming Biblical Reading. Grand Rapids, Me. 1998; Ders .: Hermeneutics. An Introduction. Grand Rapids, Me. i.a. 2009. See also Wilkens, Lorenz: Hermeneutics according to existentialism. Theological lectures and essays. Frankfurt a. M. 2007. Cf. for the first label in German studies also in the literary studies in Berensmeyer, Ingo: "Methods of hermeneutic and neohermeneutic approaches". In: Vera Nünning / Ansgar Nünning (eds.): Methods of literary and cultural studies text analysis. Approaches - Basics - Model Analysis. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, pp. 29–50, here p. 47 f., Which, interestingly, states that it is largely ineffective. That is why it seems quite promising to use the hermeneutic method independently of the intentionalism problem in the authorship debate, namely with a broader view of Manfred Frank's philosophy (see below, note 57), cf. Gnüg, Hiltrud: »Hermeneutik / Neohermeneutik«. In: Jost Schneider (ed.): Methodological history of German studies. Berlin 2009, pp. 225-254, here p. 152. Cf. previously Leiteritz, Christiane: »Hermeneutische Theorien«. In: Martin Sexl (ed.): Introduction to literary theory. Vienna 2004, pp. 129–159, here p. 152.

  20. 20.

    See Danneberg, Lutz: Hermeneutics. Importance and methodology. With a foreword by Andrea Albrecht and Carlos Spoerhase. Berlin / Boston et al. 2019. The problem also in: Jannidis, Fotis and others. (Ed.): Hermeneutics and philosophy of science. Berlin / Boston 2016 (special issue of Journal of literary theory 10,1 [2016]).

  21. 21.

    Busse, Dietrich / Teubert, Wolfgang (1994): »Is discourse a linguistic object? On the question of methods of historical semantics «. In: Dies./Fritz Hermanns (ed.): Conceptual history and history of discourse. Methodological questions and research results in historical semantics. Opladen 1994, pp. 10–28, here p. 12, quoted from Bär, Jochen A .: Hermeneutic Linguistics. Theory and practice of grammatical-semantic interpretation. Basics of a system of understanding. Berlin / Munich / Boston 2015, p. 2.

  22. 22.

    See Bär (see note 21), p. 2.

  23. 23.

    Cf. Schneider, Jan Georg: "Media as a method of processing signs: Fundamental considerations on the concept of media and its relevance for conversation research". In: Conversation research - online journal on verbal interaction 18 (2017), pp. 34-55.

  24. 24.

    Anthropologically fundamental Goodwin, Charles: Co-operative action. New York 2018.

  25. 25.

    See Hausendorf et al. (see note 10).

  26. 26.

    See, for example, Knobloch, Clemens: Language and speaking. Linguistic psychology concepts. Tubingen 1994.

  27. 27.

    See Hermanns: "Linguistic Hermeneutics" (see note 11), p. 96.

  28. 28.

    See Bär (see note 21), p. 10.

  29. 29.

    See Hermanns: "Linguistic Hermeneutics" (see note 11), p. 96.

  30. 30.

    See ibid., P. 70. On the history of research in the following see ibid., P. 69.

  31. 31.

    See e.g. B. Jäger, Ludwig: »On a hermeneutical foundation of the theory of language. Historical-systematic sketch «. In: German linguistics 5/6 (1977), pp. 3-78.

  32. 32.

    Cf. Keller, Rudi: “Do we understand what a speaker means or what an expression means? Towards a Hermeneutics of Action ”. In: Klaus Baumgärtner (ed.): Linguistic action. Heidelberg 1997, pp. 1-27.

  33. 33.

    See, inter alia. Beers, Bernd Ulrich: To clarify. Hermeneutic tradition - historical practice - linguistic foundation. Tübingen 1989; Hermanns, Fritz / Holly, Werner (eds.): Linguistic hermeneutics. Theory and practice of understanding and interpreting. Tübingen 2007; Hermanns: "Linguistic Hermeneutics" (see note 11).

  34. 34.

    See ibid., P. 97; Hermanns: "Discourse Hermeneutics" (see note 11), p. 114.

  35. 35.

    See Hermanns: "Linguistic Hermeneutics" (see note 11), p. 98.

  36. 36.

    See Bär (see note 21).

  37. 37.

    Ibid., P. 37.

  38. 38.

    Hausendorf et al. (see note 10), p. 229.

  39. 39.

    See garlic (see note 14), p. 176.

  40. 40.

    Cf. Deppermann, Arnulf: "Ethnographic Conversation Analysis: The Use and Necessity of Ethnography for Conversational Analysis". In: Conversation Research - Online journal on verbal interaction 1 (2000), pp. 96-124, here p. 96, with a view to conversation analysis.

  41. 41.

    So Deppermann, ibid., And the like: "Analyst knowledge, participant knowledge and social reality in ethnographic conversation analysis". In: Ders./Martin Hartung (ed.): What is spoken and written in the course of time. Festschrift for Johannes Schwitalla. Mannheim 2015, pp. 32–59. In the context of the German discussion about linguistic hermeneutics or hermeneutical linguistics, ethnography, contrary to its relevance in the international tradition of linguistic anthropology, plays only a marginal role overall.

  42. 42.

    See garlic (see note 14), pp. 176–182.

  43. 43.

    In terms of social theory, see Krummheuer, Antonia: Interaction with virtual agents? To acquire an unfamiliar artifact. Stuttgart 2010.

  44. 44.

    Compare in the border area between socio-informatics and applied linguistics Habscheid, Stephan et al .: "Professional emotionality and humanoid robotics in institutional communication". In: Rudolf de Cillia / Helmut Gruber / Jürgen Spitzmüller (eds.): Institutional and organizational communication. Theory, methodology, empiricism and criticism. Commemorative letter for Florian Menz. Göttingen 2020, pp. 169–188.

  45. 45.

    See Droysen, Johann Gustav: History. Historical-critical edition by Peter Leyh. Vol. 1: Reconstruction of the first complete version of the lectures (1857). Outline of the history in the first handwritten (1857/1858) and in the last printed version (1882). Stuttgart / Bad Cannstatt 1977; Heidegger, Martin: Being And Time. 16th edition Tübingen 1986; Gadamer, Hans-Georg: Hermeneutics I. Truth and Method. Basic features of a philosophical hermeneutics. 6th edition Tübingen 1990.

  46. 46.

    For a summary on intentionalism, see Spoerhase, Carlos: Authorship and Interpretation. Methodological foundations of a philological hermeneutics. Berlin / New York 2007; On the productive inversion of the battle concept of the ›intentional fallacy‹ according to Beardsley, Monroe C./Wimsatt Jr., William K .: "The Intentional Fallacy". In: The Sewanee Review 54 (1946), pp. 468-488, again in: Wimsatt, William K .: The Verbal Icon. Studies in the Meaning of Poetry. Lexington 1954, pp. 3-18, Danneberg, Lutz / Müller, Hans-Harald played a decisive role in this discussion: »The intentional fallacy - a dogma? Systematic research report on the controversy about an intentionalist conception in the text sciences «. In: Journal of general philosophy of science 14: 103-137 (Part I) and 376-411 (Part II) (1983). See also Köppe, Tilmann / Kindt, Tom: "Conceptions of Authorship and Authorial Intention". In: Gillis Dorleijn et al. (Ed.): Authorship Revisited: Conceptions of Authorship around 1900 and 2000. Leuven et al. 2010, pp. 213-227.

  47. 47.

    See Rorty, Richard: The mirror of nature. A critique of philosophy. Frankfurt a. M. 1981.

  48. 48.

    Schleiermacher (see note 3), p. 94.

  49. 49.

    See Jauss, Hans Robert: Aesthetic experience and literary hermeneutics. Vol. 1: Experiments in the field of aesthetic experience. Munich 1977; Iser, Wolfgang: The act of reading. Aesthetic Effect Theory. 4th edition Munich 1994.

  50. 50.

    Compare the reviews in Ricœur, Paul: Hermeneutics and Structuralism. The conflict of interpretations I. Munich 1973; Ders .: Hermeneutics and Psychoanalysis. The conflict of interpretations II. Munich 1974; Ders .: Time and narration. Tape. I: Time and historical narrative. Translated from the French by Rainer Rochlitz. Tape. II: Time and literary narration. Translated from the French by Rainer Rochlitz. Tape. III: The told time. Translated from the French by Andreas Knop. Munich 1988–1991 on narratology, especially vol. II. On hermeneutical self-image, especially ders. The living metaphor. With a foreword to the German edition. Translated from the French by Rainer Rochlitz. Munich 1986, and finally: At the limits of hermeneutics. Philosophical reflections on religion. Ed., Trans. and with an afterword by Veronika Hoffmann. Freiburg i. Br. 2008.

  51. 51.

    Cf. Nassen, Ulrich: “Instead of an introduction. Notes on Philological Hermeneutics «. In: Ders. (Ed.): Text hermeneutics. Topicality, history, criticism. Paderborn et al. 1979, pp. 9-22. In the same volume, Friedrich A. Kittler sets out to abolish hermeneutics through a discourse analysis instructed by media theory. Understanding or even just reading entire works is considered old-fashioned for him.

  52. 52.

    Compare the taxonomy of the theories of interpretation in Strube, Werner: Analytical Philosophy of Literary Studies. Studies on literary definition, classification, interpretation, evaluation. Paderborn 1993.

  53. 53.

    See Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich: This side of hermeneutics. The production of presence. Frankfurt a. M. 2004.

  54. 54.

    See Brinkmann, Hennig: Medieval hermeneutics. Tübingen 1980. On the position of medieval hermeneutics in the history of hermeneutics as a whole, the sketches by Rusterholz, Peter: "Hermeneutics". In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold / Volker Sinemus (eds.): Basics of literature and linguistics. Vol. 1: Literary studies. Munich 1973, pp. 89-114; Rusterholz, Peter: »Hermeneutic Models«. In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold / Heinrich Detering (eds.): Basics of literary studies. Munich 1996, pp. 101–136 (for more information Rusterholz, Peter: “On the relationship between hermeneutics and newer antihermeneutic currents”. In: ibid., Pp. 157–177); and Gadamer, Hans-Georg: Art. ›Hermeneutics‹. In: Historical dictionary of philosophy 1974, 3, col. 1061-1073; Ders .: "Classical and Philosophical Hermeneutics". In the S.: Hermeneutics II. Truth and Method. Additions. Register. 2nd ed. Tübingen 1993, pp. 92-117.

  55. 55.

    See Gumbrecht (see note 53), pp. 12, 22–35, 85–93.

  56. 56.

    See Hamacher, Werner: Hermeneutic Ellipses. Writing and compasses at Schleiermacher «. In: Ulrich Nassen (ed.): Text hermeneutics. Topicality, history, criticism. Paderborn et al. 1979, pp. 113-148; Ders .: Distant understanding. Studies in philosophy and literature from Kant to Celan. Frankfurt a. M. 1998.

  57. 57.

    Compare the said criticism by Frank, Manfred: What is neostructuralism. Frankfurt a. M. 1984. The starting point for this is the discussion with Schleiermacher: Ders .: The individual general. Text structuring and interpretation according to Schleiermacher. Frankfurt a. M. 1977. For further integration of French theoretical influences ders .: The sayable and the unspeakable. Studies on the latest French hermeneutics and text theory. Frankfurt a. M. 1980; Ders .: The inevitability of individuality. Reflections on subject, person and individual on the occasion of their ›postmodern‹ declaration of death. Frankfurt a. M. 1986.

  58. 58.

    Cf. Derrida, Jacques: »Good will to power [I]. Three questions for Hans-Georg Gadamer «; »Good will to power [II]. Interpreting the signatures [Nietzsche / Heidegger] «. In: Philippe Forget (ed.): Text and interpretation. Franco-German debate. Munich 1984, pp. 56-58, pp. 62-77.

  59. 59.

    See Schleiermacher (see note 3), p. 92, highlighted in the original.


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  1. Seminar for German Philology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

    Hartmut Bleumer

  2. German Department, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany

    Stephan Habscheid & Niels Werber

  3. Institute for German Linguistics, Philipps University Marburg, Marburg, Germany

    Constanze Spieß

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hartmut Bleumer.

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