Reading Oneself in the Text: Cavell and Gadamer’s Romantic Conception of Reading

Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology 6 (1):79-87 (2019)
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Abstract

Can we gain knowledge by reading literature? This essay defends an account of reading, developed by Stanley Cavell and Hans-Georg Gadamer, that phenomenologically describes the experience of acquiring self-knowledge by reading literary texts. Two possible criticisms of this account will be considered: first, that reading can provide other kinds of knowledge than self-knowledge; and, second, that the theory involves illegitimately imposing subjective meaning onto a text. It will be argued, in response, that the self-knowledge gained in reading allows one to gain other sorts of knowledge too, and that the reading process described by Gadamer and Cavell avoids excessive subjectivism.

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David Liakos
Houston Community College System

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