Reception Theory and the Interpretation of Historical Meaning

History and Theory 32 (3):248-272 (1993)

The paper examines the very different insights of theorists into the interpretation of historical meaning of literary reception and Anglo-American theorists of the "new" history of political thought . Among the former, readers create meaning; among the latter, authorial intended meanings are fundamental. Both perspectives are valuable, but one-sided. The differences between them arise from different perspectives on the character of a text. But those perspectives are not as incompatible as has been supposed, especially by reception theorists. By examining the incoherences of literary reception theory when viewed from the perspective of the intentionalists, and by examining the one-sidedness of intentionalist theory in the light of a modified version of the reception perspective, it is shown that an understanding of historical meaning requires both insights. The argument is illustrated by reference to the history of political thought, a history which might more usefully be conceived as the history of political literature
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DOI 10.2307/2505525
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