Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Texts and Recipients

Since at least the hermeneutic turn of textual analysis, we are aware of the importance of readers/listeners while evaluing a text. But how far has the composer of a text listeners/readers in view, while composing a text? The question is crucial, because it points to the possibility of critically reconstructing and of interpreting a text both from the point of view of its author and of that of its intended readers/listeners. The two levels would be distinct even at the author's time.
A recent study by an Italian philosopher and scholar of aesthetics, Maurizio Ferraris (Documentalità, 2009), highlights the recording aim of writing/composing a text (the ambiguity is necessary while talking about Indian culture, which has often been suspicious about writing). One composes, maintains Ferraris, in order to record facts, in order to make out of random episodes a "social thing". Hence, record is prior to communication. One is lead to remember Robinson Crusoe's calendar, even in his solitary island. But is the priority of record logically admissible? Or does not it presuppose the possibility of a (future) reader/listener for whom the record is meant? Does not the very idea of texts and documents as reification of social life into "social objects" entail a community within which one communicates?


VS said...

Perhaps our challenge is to try to evaluate the mindset of people centuries ago, with our present day mindset. Their motives could have been very different from our own and thus any conclusion may not be accurate.

elisa freschi said...

Yes, very right. There are at least two possible attitudes in regard to that:
On the one hand, Somadeva Vasudeva (see the post I hinted at in my comment on "how many typos…") seems to believe that –by reading many coeval tests– one can eventually think as the author and understand him/her.
On the other, Anna Pia Sjodin from the very outset of her translation of Vallabha (the book significantly bears a title which has nothing to do with Vallabha's work: The Happening of Tradition) assumes that no understanding of a 12th century author is possible. Hence, she just proposes her own hermeneutical work, which has to be seen as a work on its own –not as Vallabha's one.
The first alternative seems too confident, to the second it might be objected that no one really cares for, say, Elisa Freschi's works. Hence, personally I hope to find a middle path.

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