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October 2005
256 pages  

6 x 9
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The Task of the Interpreter
Text, Meaning, and Negotiation
Vandevelde, Pol
By examining the interpretation of a wide variety of materials, such as works in translation and literary fiction, Pol Vandevelde presents a new approach to interpretation that reconciles the possibility of multiple interpretations with the need to consider an author’s intent.

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Pol Vandevelde is associate professor of philosophy at Marquette University. He is the author of Être et discours. La question du langage dans l’itinéraire de Heidegger (1927–1938).
“Challenging traditional approaches to interpretation on both sides of the Atlantic, Vandevelde argues trenchantly that the practice of interpretation, as both an event and an act, involves a process of justification that appeals to one or more distinct but interrelated levels of meaning: author's intention, textual meaning, and representative content. A masterful display of erudition and command of contemporary theories.—Daniel Dahlstrom, Boston University

“A painstaking analysis of the act and art of interpretation. While I would take issue with some of Vandevelde's points (although not with his criticism of the early Fish) I agree completely with his contention that a “claim to rightness” is essential to any act of interpretation that is offered seriously.”—Stanley Fish, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Pol Vandevelde has written a fresh and compendious book about interpretation as negotiation. He draws upon various philosophical traditions to illuminate a range of central issues in the philosophy of interpretation. Vandevelde is skillful, thoughtful, and imaginative. The Task of the Interpreter should become a standard text in the field.” —Michael Krausz, Bryn Mawr College author , Rightness and Reasons and Limits of Rightness

”Informative, insightful. .. . far more than a collection of essays.”—American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

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The Task of the Interpreter offers a new approach to what it means to interpret a text, and reconciles the possibility of multiple interpretations with the need to consider the author’s intention. Vandevelde argues that interpretation is both an act and an event: It is an act in that interpreters, through the statements they make, implicitly commit themselves to justifying their positions, if prompted. It is an event in that interpreters are situated in a cultural and historical framework and come to a text with questions, concerns, and methods of which they are not fully conscious. These two aspects make interpretation a negotiation of meaning. The Task of the Interpreter provides an interdisciplinary investigation of textual interpretation including biblical hermeneutics (Gregory the Great’s Homilies on Ezekiel), translation (Homer’s The Odyssey), and literary fictions (Grass’s Dog Years and Sabato’s On Heroes and Tombs). Vandevelde’s philosophical discussion will appeal to theorists of both continental and analytical/pragmatic traditions.


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