Seminar Interpretation Today

Hermeneutics, Anti-hermeneutics, and Post-hermeneutics

Fri, 2018-02-23 15:15 to 17:00
Inge van de Ven & Kári Driscoll
Universiteit van Amsterdam, PC Hoofthuis, Spuistraat 134, room 6.25.

How can we assess the status of interpretation in the Humanities today? Increasingly in the last decades, scholars have written about the limits of interpretation. Recent forms of ‘distant reading’ in Digital Humanities, experiments in machine reading, critiques of historicism, and narratives of the ‘turn away from the linguistic turn,’ all foreground the epistemological restrictions inherent to the practice of interpreting individual texts. We discuss various orientations toward reading that oppose some of the hallmarks of the hermeneutic tradition—such as depth, consciousness, the primacy of language, humanism, interpretation, mediation, epistemology, and historicism. Instead, these theories value surfaces, description, cognition, affect, materiality, nonhuman entities, the natural and social sciences, and speculative thought (Orlemanski 2014).

After rehearsing some of the tenets of hermeneutics through readings of Heidegger and Gadamer, we delve into a range of different forms of post- and anti-hermeneutic criticism such as media archaeology (Ernst, Kittler; Flusser; Parikka); speculative realism and object-oriented ontology (Bryant; Harman; Meillassoux); surface reading (Best and Marcus; Sedgwick; Sontag), and quantitative formalism (Moretti; Allison et al.). In our seminar, we critically assess these various orientations and try to rethink the uses and disuses of hermeneutics for the present moment.

Sponsored by Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA)

Contact and registration: Inge van de Ven,

(R)MA and PhD students who want to participate for credits (5 ECTS  for attendence and written assignment): contact Eloe Kingma at


Provisional program

Wednesday 20 Sept. 15.15-17.00 Tilburg University, C 186 (Ruth First)

1. Ontological hermeneutics and Phenomenology : Heidegger, Gadamer. Introductions by Inge van de Ven and Frans van Peperstraten.

M. Heidegger, Being and Time. 1927. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1962. Ch.5, par. 31-34 (pp.182-210).

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method, 2nd ed., trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. London and New York: Continuum, 2004 [orig. 1960]. Selection.


Tuesday 31 Oct. 11.15-13.00. Tilburg University, D 353

2. The Hermeneutics of Suspicion: Ricœur, Derrida, and critiques of Gadamer. Introduction by Gert-Jan van der Heiden and Sanem Yazicioglu.

Paul Ricœur, Freud and Philosophy, 1965. Book I: Problematic: The Placing of Freud (pp. 3-58).

Paul Ricœur, From Text to Action, 1986. "The hermeneutic function of distantiation" (pp. 75-88) and "What is a Text?" (pp. 105-24).

Arendt, Hanna. The Human Condition. The U of Cicago P, 1998 [1958]: sections 24&25 (pp. 175-88).

[Further reading: Yazicioglu, Sanem. "Arendt's Hermeneutic Interpretation of Kantian Reflective Judgment." Philosophy Today 54:4 (2010): 321-32.]


Monday 20 Nov. 11.00-12.45; Utrecht University.

3. Surface reading/reparative reading/the descriptive turn. Introduction by Inge van de Ven.

Felski, Rita. The Limits of Critique. U of Chicago P, 2015. Introduction; chapter 1; chapter 5.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Duke UP, 2003. Ch. 4: “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or: You’re so paranoid, you probably think this essay is about you.”

Sontag, Susan. “Against Interpretation.”  [1966]. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. 3-14.


Wednesday 6 Dec. 15.00-16.45; Utrecht University.

4. Multispecies Ethnography and Thick Description. Introduction by Kári Driscoll.

Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” and “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 3–30, 412–53.

Heather Love, “Close Reading and Thin Description,” Public Culture 25.3 (2013): 401–34.

Eben Kirksey and Stefan Helmreich, “The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography,” Cultural Anthropology 25.4 (2010): 545–76.


5. Media archaeology I: Friedrich Kittler & Vilém Flusser. Introduction by Kiene Brillenburg Wurth.

Thursday 25 Jan. 15.15-17.00; Utrecht University.

Kittler, Friedrich A. Discourse Networks 1800/1900. Trans. Michael Metteer and Chris Cullens. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990. Introduction by David Wellberry; Part I. 1800: The scholar's tragedy. 3-24.

Flusser, Vilém. Does Writing Have a Future? Trans. Nancy Ann Roth. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011. 3-53; 79-85; 87-93.


Friday 23 February, Universiteit van Amsterdam

6. Media archaeology II: Wolfgang Ernst and Jussi Parikka. Introduction by Ernst van Alphen.

Ernst, Wolfgang. Digital Memory and the Archive. Ed. Jussi Parikka. Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P, 2013. Intoduction by Jussi Parikkka (1-22) & chapters 3 (81-94) and 6 (113-40).

Parikka, Jussi. What Is Media Archaeology? New York: Wiley, 2012. Introduction: Cartographies of the Old and the New. 1-18.


.. March,

7. Speculative Realism & Object-Oriented Ontology. Introduction by Alex Gekker.

Bryant, Levi R. “Flat Ontology.” 2010.

Graham Harman, “The Third Table.” 100 Notes, 4-14.

Gert-Jan van der Heiden, Ontology after Ontotheology. Plurality, Event, and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy. Pittsburg PA: Duquesne UP, 2014. Selection.


xx-xx, xx.xx-xx; Tilburg University.

8. Distant reading and quantitative formalism. Introduction by Tom van Nuenen.

Allison, Sarah, et al. “Quantitative Formalism: An Experiment.” Stanford Literary Lab, Pamphlet 1, 15 Jan. 2011. Web.

Jockers, Matthew L. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2013. Ch. 1 (Revolutions); Ch. 2 (Evidence); Ch. 3 (Tradition). 3-23.


25 May 15.15-17.00; Tilburg University.

9. Fragmented realism: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Deleuze. Introduction by Daan Rutten.

Deleuze, Giles. Difference and Repetition, 1968. Selection.

Willem Schinkel, Aspects of Violence, 2010 Selection.

Optional: Arjen Kleinheerenbrink, Alles is een machine, 2017.


15 June 15.15-17.00; KNAW, Trippenhuis. Kloveniersburgwal 29, 1011, Amsterdam. '

10. Agamben's Potentialities. Introduction by Geertjan de Vugt.

Specific essays to be announced.