Criticism Theory

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By Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

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Additional resources for Making Sense in Life and Literature (Theory and History of Literature)

Example text

Within the framework of a descriptive history of reception I would like to recommend using the meaning intended by the author as the background against which other meanings can be understood and compared. From my comments on the value of this reconstruction within a descriptive history, it ought to be clear that I am not pushing for a renaissance of biographical literary historiography, nor do I threaten anew to reduce to "authorial intention" the plurality of historical readings or potential criteria for normative readings.

By putting himself in the roles of those acting subjects and asking, say, which project he would induce into a given text as expressive action if he were in the author's historical and social position, the critical observer can posit hypotheses about the motivation for an author's expressive actions, a reader's action of understanding, and the significance of reading experiences as part of the reader's motivation for subsequent action. "24 Embedding criticism in the sociology of communication by no means guarantees certainty in the sense of the empirical sciences, as once was promised by the "linguistification" of literary criticism and which is still retained today by the hardware vocabulary of those varieties of the sociology of communication influenced by information theory.

Third, it belongs to the illusion of experiencing a past world through historiography that recipients, on the basis of their knowledge of the past, develop future expectations or prognoses, which are so open and undefined that it looks like they were wholly unaware of the consequences of the thematized past for their own past or present. Now this last condition (the open temporal horizon that becomes the future of the thematized past) implies that "historiography in the narrow sense" articulates historical knowledge in a manner that allows the recipients to recapitulate the process through which it was acquired.

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