Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 76:193-210 (2002)
|Abstract||In this paper I argue that the interpretation of a text by a reader involves a dialectical process that simultaneously perfects both reader and text. The issue of the dialectical relation between text and reader is beautifully embodied in Dante’s Commedia, a text that includes both an account of its subject matter as it develops (in the story of the pilgrim), as well as an account of its own coming-to-be as an interpreted, meaningful account (in the narrative of the poet). Thus there is a necessary relation, though not an identity, between the content of Dante’s text (as shown in the journey of the pilgrim) and the meaningful interpretation of the content of Dante’s text (as shown in the recollective narrative of the poet). The issue of the dialectical relation between interpreter and text is dramatized by the fact that, in his account of the realms of the afterlife, Dante the poet is not merely describing realms that have meaning apart from his own hermeneutic activity. Rather, he is demonstrating that the pilgrim’s journey of interpreting the world within which he finds himself always involves his own self-interpretation, and viceversa. Thus, as the pilgrim/poet’s ability to interpret himself becomes more refined, his very world changes. Dante illustrates this process as a movementthrough the three realms of the afterlife, from the inferno, through purgatory, to paradise|
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