Fall 2016 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Wickberg, Dan
Discipline and Number
ARHM 3342 Section 001
TR Time 2:30 PM - 5:15 PM
Course Title
The Idea of Interpretation

Description of Course:

One of the key concepts in the arts and humanities in the modern era is the concept of “interpretation”. Historians interpret past events; literary critics interpret texts; philosophers concern themselves with the meaning of statements and how they are to be interpreted; writers, artists and performers interpret the world, the script, the musical score. This course will examine the multiple meanings of “interpretation” and the ways in which they have come to structure the interdisciplinary practices of the arts and humanities since the late nineteenth century. Issues discussed will include: Anti-positivism and the social scientific concept of Verstehen; the distinction between explanation and interpretation; Is there one “right” interpretation of a text or work of art, or is interpretation entirely subjective?; the hermeneutic tradition of textual interpretation; interpretive anthropology; surface and depth; the “linguistic turn” in philosophical and historical practice; influential forms of interpretive thought, such as Freudian and Marxist interpretation; postmodern criticism of the assumptions of interpretive thought; the relationship between authorial intention, reader response, and the meaning of a work of art. The goal is to understand what has defined modern humanistic understanding and artistic practice in an era dominated by scientific, empiricist and mechanistic modes of knowledge, and the ways in which artists, scholars in the humanities, and critics have sought alternative ways of approaching reality.

Required Texts:

Possible Texts:
Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation”
Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures
Max Weber, selection from Society and Economy
Wilhelm Dilthey, selection from Introduction to the Human Sciences
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
Wilfred McClay, “The Burden of the Humanities” Wilson Quarterly 2008
R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History
Charles Beard, “Written History as an Act of Faith” (1934)
Quentin Skinner, “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” (1969)
Paul Grice, “Meaning” Philosophical Review (1957)
E.D. Hirsch, The Aims of Interpretation
Michael Krausz, , Rightness and Reason: Interpretation in Cultural Practice
Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in this Class?

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Class Requirements:
Five short précis
One oral presentation
Class attendance and participation
One term paper (10-12 pages)

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