English 3385: Special Topics in Rhetoric: Theories of Interpretation

Fall 2004

MWF: 11:00 a.m.-11:50 a.m.

Preston Hall, Room 300

 

Professor Kevin J. Porter

100B Carlisle Hall

Office Phone: 817-272-3112

Email: kporter1@uta.edu (best way to contact me outside of class or office hours)

Office Hours: MW 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.

 

Course Description

 

If you are reading this sentence, you are engaged in an act of interpretation, the goal of which is, presumably, understanding. But what does it mean to “understand” a text? Is there an instant in time in which a reader shifts from not understanding a text to understanding it? Is there a single, precise standard by which a person may (or should) judge (or be judged regarding) how well she has understood a text? Is understanding a cognitive state that results from culling information from a text, or is it a particular mode of being-in-relation to a text? Or is it something else entirely (perhaps even not an “it”)?

 

In this course, we will examine contemporary theories of the interpretation of literary and non-literary texts. Our goals for the course are fourfold: (1) to learn basic theoretical concepts related to various methodologies of interpretation (i.e., “hermeneutics”); (2) to gain a broad perspective on the history of the emergence, interanimation, and collision of hermeneutic theories; (3) to contrast various concepts of the “author” and the “reader” of texts; and (4) to investigate what consequences follow for English Studies from the adoption of particular hermeneutic theories by researchers and teachers in the field. To reach these goals, we will read texts written by influential theorists and scholars, such as Roland Barthes, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, Stanley Fish, Michel Foucault, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, and Wolfgang Iser.

 

Required Texts

               

Bruns, Gerald L. (1992). Hermeneutics Ancient and Modern. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1992. [ISBN: 0-300-06303-2]

Dasenbrock, Reed Way. (2001). Truth and Consequences: Intentions, Conventions, and the New Thematics. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP. [ISBN: 0-271-02041-5]

Derrida, Jacques. (1988). Limited Inc. Chicago: Northwestern UP. [ISBN: 0810107880]

Fish, Stanley.  (1980). Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. (ISBN: 0-674-46726-4)

Hirsch, E. D., Jr. (1967). Validity in Interpretation. New Haven, CT: Yale UP. (ISBN: 0-300-01692-1)

Iser, Wolfgang. (1976). The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP. (ISBN: 0-8018-2371-4)

Smith, Barbara Herrnstein. (1991). Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. [ISBN: 0674167864]

 

Assignments

 

The assignments for this class are comprised of 3 critical reviews (6-8 pages) and a cumulative take-home final examination. Assignments turned in late will not be accepted; however, if you must miss class, you can email the assignment to me so long as it is sent prior to the beginning of class.

 

Grades

 

                Critical Review 1                                 10%

                Critical Review 2                                 20%

                Critical Review 3                                 40%

                Final Examination                               30%

 

Attendance

 

Attendance is mandatory, and active participation is expected. Students are allowed 2 absences without penalty; for each subsequent absence, 1% will be automatically deducted from the student’s final course grade. I will distribute a sign-in sheet at the beginning of each class; if you are not in class by the time the sheet is collected, you are counted as absent.

 

Drop Policy

 

UTA instructors cannot drop students for any reason. You may choose to drop the course with a “W” by November 12th.

 

Schedule of Assignments

 

I reserve the right to modify, as necessary, the readings and other assignments listed on this syllabus. All readings marked *** are available at my website (http://www.uta.edu/english/kporter1). You should print out these materials as soon as possible in one of the campus computer labs, and you must bring to class a copy of the specific assigned reading for that day.

 

I have provided detailed instructions for all course assignments; you should use days that “carry over” a discussion to get ahead on your other work. This “extra” time is factored into my consideration of assignment due dates, progress toward completing assignments, grades, etc.

 

8/23         Introduction to the Course: Interpretation and Understanding

 

8/25         Bruns, “Introduction”

                ***            Critical Review Instructions

                ***            Sample Critical Review

 

8/27         Bruns, Chapters 1 & 2

 

9/1           Bruns, Chapters 3 & 4

 

9/3           Bruns, Chapters 5 & 6

 

9/6           Labor Day Holiday: No Class

 

9/8           Bruns, Chapters 7 & 8

 

9/10         Bruns, Chapters 9 & 10

 

9/13         Bruns, Chapters 11 & 12

 

9/15         Bruns, “Conclusion”

 

9/17         Iser, Chapters 1 & 2

 

9/20         Iser, Chapters 3 & 4

 

9/22         Iser, Chapters 5 & 6

 

9/24         Iser, Chapters 7 & 8

 

9/27         Fish, Chapter 1

 

9/29         Fish, Chapters 3 & 11

 

10/1         Fish, Chapter 13

 

10/4         Fish, Chapters 14 & 15

 

10/6         Hirsch, Chapters 1 & 2

 

10/8         Hirsch, Chapters 3 & 4

 

10/11       Hirsch, Chapters 5 & Appendix 1

                Due: Critical Review #1 of Iser, The Act of Reading

 

10/13       Hirsch, Appendices 2 & 3

 

10/15       ***            Barthes, “The Death of the Author”

 

10/18       ***            Foucault, “What is an Author?”

 

10/20       Derrida, “Signature Event Context” (in Limited Inc.)

 

10/22       Continued Discussion of Derrida, “Signature Event Context”

 

10/25       Continued Discussion of Derrida, “Signature Event Context”

 

10/27       ***            Searle, “Reiterating the Differences: A Reply to Derrida”

 

10/29       Derrida, “Limited Inc a b c . . .” (in Limited Inc.)

 

11/1         Continued Discussion of Derrida, “Limited Inc a b c . . .”

                Due: Critical Review # of Foucault, “What is an Author?”

 

11/3         Continued Discussion of Derrida, “Limited Inc a b c . . .”

 

11/5         Smith, Chapter 1

 

11/8         Smith, Chapters 2 & 3

 

11/10       Smith, Chapters 4 & 5

 

11/12       Smith, Chapters 6 & 7

 

11/15       ***            Bloom, “The Essay Canon”

 

11/17       Dasenbrock, Chapters 1 & 2

 

11/19       Dasenbrock, Chapters 3 & 4

 

11/22       Dasenbrock, Chapters 5 & 6

 

11/24       Thanksgiving Holiday: No Class

 

11/26       Thanksgiving Holiday: No Class

 

11/29       Dasenbrock, Chapters 7 & 8

                Due: Critical Review #3 of Smith, Contingencies of Values

12/1         Dasenbrock, Chapters 9 & 10

 

12/3         Dasenbrock, Chapters 11 & 12

                Final Examination Prompt distributed

 

Final Examination due by 12:00 p.m. on Monday, December 6th. No late exams will be accepted.

 

Academic Dishonesty: It is the philosophy of The University of Texas at Arlington that academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University. "Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts." [Regents' Rules and Regulations, Part One, Chapter Vi, Section 3, Subsection 3.2, Subdivision 3.22]

 

Disability Policy: The University of Texas at Arlington is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of federal equal opportunity legislation; reference Public Law 93112--The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. With the passage of new federal legislation entitled Americans with Disabilities Act - (ADA), pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, there is renewed focus on providing this population with the same opportunities enjoyed by all citizens. As a faculty member, I am required by law to provide "reasonable accommodation" to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of that disability. Student responsibility primarily rests with informing faculty at the beginning of the semester and in providing authorized documentation through designated administrative channels.

 

Student Assistance: The University of Texas at Arlington supports a variety of student success programs to help you connect with the University and achieve academic success. They include learning assistance, developmental education, advising and mentoring, admission and transition, and federally funded programs. Students requiring assistance academically, personally, or socially should contact the Office of Student Success Programs at 817-272-6107 for more information and appropriate referrals.

 

Bomb Threats: If anyone is tempted to call in a bomb threat, be aware that UTA will attempt to trace the phone call and prosecute all responsible parties. Every effort will be made to avoid cancellation of the presentations/tests caused by bomb threats. Unannounced alternative sites will be available for these classes. Your instructor will make you aware of alternate class sites in the event that your classroom is not available.