Picking away…

Some key quotes I need to unpick – and will only be able to do justice if I save them for the final project: Dissertation.

‘Is everything in a narrative functional? Does everything, down to the slightest detail, have a meaning? Can narrative be divided up entirely into functional units? We shall see in a moment that there are several kinds of functions, there being several kinds of correlations, but this does not alter the fact that a narrative is never made up of anything other than functions: in differing degrees, everything in it signifies. This is not a matter of art (on the part of the narrator), but of structure; in the realm of discourse, what is noted is by definition notable. Even were a detail to appear irretrievably insignificant, resistant to all functionality, it would nonetheless end up with precisely the meaning of absurdity or uselessness: everything has a meaning, or nothing has. To put it another way, one could say that art is without noise (as that term is employed in information theory): art is a system which is pure, no unit ever goes wasted, however long, however loose, however tenuous may be the thread connecting it to one of the levels of the story. (Barthes, R. (1977) Image-Music-Text, Fontana Press, London: page 89-90)’

‘…Levi-Strauss: the units above the sentence have the same composition as the units below the sentence; the sense of the narrative consists in the very arrangement of the elements, in the power of the whole to integrate the subunits; and conversely, the sense of an element is its capacity to enter in relation with other elements and with the whole of the work. These postulates together define the closure of the narrative. (Ricoeur, P. (2008) From Text to Action, Continuum, London: page 112)’

‘Reading is like the execution of a musical score; it marks the realization, the enactment, of the semantic possibilities of the text. The final feature is the most important because it is the condition of the other two (that is, of overwhelming cultural distance and of fusing textual interpretation with self-interpretation). Indeed, the feature of realization discloses a decisive aspect of reading, namely, that it fulfills the discourse of the text in a dimension similar to that of speech. What is retained here from the notion of speech is not the fact that it is uttered but that it is an event, an instance of discourse, as Benveniste says. The sentences of a text signify here and now. The ‘actualized’ texts finds a surrounding and an audience; it resumes the referential movement – intercepted and suspended – toward a world and towards subjects. This world is that of the reader, this subject is the reader himself. In interpretation, we shall say, reading becomes like speech. I do not say ‘becomes speech,’ for reading is never equivalent to a spoken exchange, a dialogue. But reading culminates in a concrete act that is related to the text as speech is related to discourse, namely, as event and instance of discourse. Initially the text had only a sense, that is, internal relations or a structure; now it has a meaning, that is, a realization in the discourse of the reading subject. By virtue of its sense, the text had only a semiological dimension; now it has, by virtue of its meaning, a semantic dimension. (Ricoeur, P. (2008) From Text to Action, Continuum, London: page 115)’

‘…the intended meaning of the text is not essentially the presumed intention of the author, the lived experience of the writer, but rather what the text means for whoever complies with its injunction. The text seeks to place us in its meaning, that is – according to another acceptation of the word sense – in the same direction. So if the intention is that of the text, and if this intention is the direction that it opens up for thought, then depth semantics must be understood in a fundamentally dynamic way. I shall therefore say: to explain is to bring out the structure, that is, the internal relations of dependence that constitute the statics of the text; to interpret is to follow the path of thought opened up by the text, to place oneself en route toward the orient of the text. We are invited by this remark to correct our initial concept of interpretation and to search – beyond a subjective process of interpretation as an act on the text – for an objective process of interpretation that would be the act of the text. (Ricoeur, P. (2008) From Text to Action, Continuum, London: page 117)’

‘The idea of interpretation as appropriation is not, for all that, eliminated; it is simply postponed until the termination of the process. It lies at the extremity of what we [have] called…the hermeneutical arc: it is the final brace of the bridge, the anchorage of the arch in the ground of lived experience. But the entire theory of hermeneutics consists in mediating this interpretation – appropriation by the series of interpretants that belong to the work of the text upon itself. Appropriation loses its arbitrariness insofar as it is the recovery of that which is at work, in labour, within the text. What the interpreter says is a resaying that reactivates what is said by the text.’

At the end of our investigation, it seems that reading is the concrete act in which the destiny of the text is fulfilled. It is at the very heart of reading that explanation and interpretation are indefinitely opposed and reconciled. (Ricoeur, P. (2008) From Text to Action, Continuum, London: page 119-120)’

To be continued…