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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More Hermeneutic Circle

ON a larger scale a larger cultural narrative also works on the principle of the hermeneutic circle: the oscillation between the interpretation of whole and parts. The whole, of course, is the field-based narrative, like a theory of the "morada vital" of Spain (Américo Castro). What supports this narrative is the interpretation of individual works of literature, or movements, etc... So interpretations of Juan Ruiz, Cervantes, Saint John of the Cross, support the larger theory that Spanish identity is formed by the co-existence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews in medieval Spain, and is hence fundamentally non-Western.

We have to be careful, because any criticism of the "morada vital" as explanatory principle runs the risk of misinterpretation. By a certain logic anyone who opposes this master narrative would be in the opposite camp, saying that Spain is a Christian nation founded simply on the triumph of one group over the other two. If you aren't castrista then do you have to be follower of a Franco-style nationalist narrative of Christian triumphalism?

Well no. You don't have to have a theory of national identity at all. You can recognize this particular hermeneutic circle as a vicious one.

Well, you do need a theory of the theories, and you do need to position yourself with respect to them.

1 comment:

Professor Zero said...

They will run in circles as long as they take too seriously, literally, or personally these questions of identity and modernity, I have decided. There are many advantages in giving up the identitarian project, and also in realizing that do what it may Spain cannot be a central country in Europe because values have already been defined. Sometimes I think these questions keep being asked precisely because they cannot be answered, so there are sure to be more grants and more conferences.