Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Ricoeur Reader

A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination

Edited by Mario J. Valdés
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 531
  • Book Info
    A Ricoeur Reader
    Book Description:

    Paul Ricoeur is one of the most important modern literary theorists and a philosopher of world renown. This collection brings together his published articles, papers, reviews, and interviews that focus on literary theory and criticism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6488-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Paul Ricoeur’s Post-Structuralist Hermeneutics
    (pp. 3-40)

    It is almost unprecedented for a major philosopher to turn his attention to the theoretical problems of literary criticism. Yet, beginning withInterpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaningin 1976 and culminating withTime and Narrative,Vol. III, in [1985],* Paul Ricoeur has addressed every major theoretical issue of the undisciplined discipline we call literary criticism. During this decade he has written five books and numerous articles, eleven of which have been collected and edited by John B. Thompson in a volume titledHermeneutics and the Human Sciences(which I will treat here as a sixth book).


  5. I Philosophical Context for a Post-Structuralist Hermeneutics

    • What Is a Text? Explanation and Understanding
      (pp. 43-64)

      This essay will be devoted primarily to the debate between two fundamental attitudes which may be adopted in regard to a text. These two attitudes were summed up, in the period of Wilhelm Dilthey at the end of the last century, by the two words ‘explanation’ and ‘interpretation.’ For Dilthey, ‘explanation’ referred to the model of intelligibility borrowed from the natural sciences and applied to the historical disciplines by positivist schools; ‘interpretation,’ on the other hand, was a derivative form of understanding, which Dilthey regarded as the fundamental attitude of the human sciences and as that which could alone preserve...

    • Word, Polysemy, Metaphor: Creativity in Language
      (pp. 65-85)

      This paper is about the creative aspects of language. However we must avoid platitudes about this formidable topic. A helpful suggestion and guide may be found, I think, in the famous aphorism of Wilhelm von Humboldt which describes language as an infinite use of finite means. Looking for a striking illustration of this contrast, I found it in some recent interpretations of metaphor which depart from the traditional interpretation of rhetoric and show it to be not an ornament of language or a stylistic decoration, but a semantic innovation, an emergence of meaning. In order to introduce this theme I...

    • Appropriation
      (pp. 86-98)

      This essay will attempt to explicate a key idea which governs the methodology of interpretation. It concerns the way in which a text isaddressedto someone. Elsewhere¹ we have noted that the writing reading relation is distinguished from the speaking–hearing relation not only in terms of the relation to the speaker, but also in terms of the relation to the audience. We have asked: for whom does one write? and we have answered: for anyone who can read. We have also spoken of the ‘potentialization’ of the audience, which is no longer the partner in dialogue but the...

    • The Human Experience of Time and Narrative
      (pp. 99-116)

      My aim in this paper is to bring together two problematics that are not usually connected: the epistemology of the narrative function and the phenomenology of time experience.

      On the one hand, the epistemology of narrative, whether it considers narrative in the sense of history-writing or of story-telling, scarcely questions the concept of time which is implicit in narrative activity. It takes it for granted that narratives occurintime, i.e., within a given temporal framework, and it uncritically identifies this given temporal framework with the ordinary representation of time as a linear succession of abstract ‘nows.’

      On the other...

    • The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality
      (pp. 117-136)

      The theme of this paper may seem intriguing. Yet, no taste for paradox animates it. It must be understood in the sense of Nelson Goodman’s first chapter inLanguages of Art,entitled ‘Reality Remade.’ My own approach is in agreement with this book’s general thesis that symbolic systems ‘make’ and ‘remake’ the world, and that our aesthetical grasping of the world is a militant understanding that ‘reorganizes the world in terms of works and works in terms of world’ (p. 241). My title could as well correspond with certain works in epistemology such as that of Mary Hesse inModels...

    • Mimesis and Representation
      (pp. 137-156)

      For contemporary philosophy, representation is a great culprit. Some philosophers even speak of a representative illusion, just as Kant spoke of a transcendental illusion. This representative illusion allegedly stems from the impossible claim of uniting the inferiority of a mental image in the mind and the exteriority of something real that would govern from outside the play of the mental scene within a single entity or ‘representation.’ The illusory nature of this claim is said to be even clearer if one says that the interior presence and the exterior presence can be made present to each other through some process...

  6. II The Dialectic of Engagement

    • Habermas
      (pp. 159-181)

      In this paper I shall discuss Habermas’s theory of ideology, which is presented in terms of a critique, a critique of ideology. I shall focus mainly on the parallelism claimed between psychoanalysis and the critique of ideology, since Habermas bases his theory of ideology on the transfer of some psychoanalytic insights into the field of the critical social sciences.

      Before turning to this discussion, however, we need to situate the character of psychoanalysis and ideology-critique as critical social sciences. In establishing the distinctiveness of critical social sciences, Habermas moves from a twofold division between instrumental and practical sciences to a...

    • Geertz
      (pp. 182-194)

      We end our regressive analysis of ideology¹ by discussion of Clifford Geertz. Discussion of Geertz is the last step in an analysis that covers three main stages. We started from the surface concept of ideology as distortion. When we readThe German Ideology,we asked how can we make sense of Marx’s assertion that a ruling class is expressed by ruling ideas, ideas which become the ruling ideas of an epoch. We recognized that at this stage the concept of ideology was systematic distortion, and we saw that in order to approach this first concept, we had to take into...

    • Construing and Constructing: A Review of The Aims of Interpretation by E.D. Hirsch, Jr
      (pp. 195-199)

      In 1967, E.D. Hirsch publishedValidity in Interpretation.Now, nearly ten years later, inThe Aims of Interpretation,he proposes ‘to amplify important subjects that were dealt with only briefly in the earlier book.’ In speaking of amplification, the author denies having introduced any ‘substantive revisions of the earlier argument.’ I would say, for my part, thatThe Aims of Interpretationactually takes a middle course between amplification and revision.

      On two pơints the earlier work left the reader in some confusion. The first concerned the relationship between the internal meaning of work of art, what Professor Hirsch called the...

    • Review of Nelson Goodman’s Ways of Worldmaking
      (pp. 200-215)

      The seven chapters which compose Goodman’s new book will be no surprise for readers ofFact, Fiction, and ForecastandLanguages of Art.But these readers will be confronted by the most radical and the most condensed exposition of the author’s philosophy (plus some internal excursions, if I dare say so, which add the pleasure of discovery to that of recognition).

      The thesis is simple, rigorous, and uncompromising. For the sake of didactic clarity, I analyse it in three partial theses:

      1 /We ‘make’ the world by construing symbolic systems(in a sense of the word symbol akin to...

    • The Conflict of Interpretations: Debate with Hans-Georg Gadamer
      (pp. 216-241)

      My introductory remarks to our joint discussion will be brief. But I hope they will provide an initial theme. After my short conversation with Professor Ricoeur about what he would be saying, I feel quite sure our two contributions will complement each other.

      My proposal for our topic, the conflict of interpretations, was by way of honouring Ricoeur, who, in his book on this question, formulated a problem I have been working on for a long time. I am not offering a solution to this conflict of interpretations. My aim is rather a better understanding of the methodological and philosophical...

    • Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, or the Order of Paradigms
      (pp. 242-255)

      This essay on interpreting Northrop Frye’sAnatomy of Criticismis governed by an underlying hypothesis which I want to set forth before testing it out in the reading that follows. It is my belief that, despite its systematic aspect, this work does not belong to the same system of thought that governs the narrative theory of the French school of structuralism. I see in the latter an attempt to reconstruct, to simulate at a higher level of rationality, what is already understood on a lower level of narrative understanding, the level brought to light for the first time by Aristotle...

    • Greimas’s Narrative Grammar
      (pp. 256-286)

      What is interesting about Greimas’s narrative grammar is the way it constructs, degree by degree, the necessary conditions for narrativity, starting from a logical model which is the least complex possible and which, initially, includes no chronological import at all. The question is whether, in the attempt to arrive at the structure of those stories which are, in fact, produced by oral and written traditions, the author, in the successive additions with which he enriches his initial model, does indeed build upon the specifically narrative characteristics of the initial model or whether his development includes extrinsic presuppositions. Greimas believes that,...

    • On Narrativity: Debate with A J. Greimas
      (pp. 287-300)

      It is a pleasure to share once again a discussion session with Professor Greimas. Our paths have often crossed over the years and our friendship has increased along with these exchanges. Let me first say how my own agenda not only led me to cross Greimas’s path but also led me along the same road with him. Coming from the disciplines of phenomenology and hermeneutics, I was first interested in the way semiotics responds to the aporias of hermeneutics, which is fundamentally based on the notion of pre-understanding that is necessary before scientific discourse on literature, and more specifically on...

  7. III Aspects of Post-Structuralist Hermeneutics

    • Metaphor and the Main Problem of Hermeneutics
      (pp. 303-319)

      I begin this paper with the assumption that the main problem of hermeneutics is that of interpretation. Not interpretation in any undetermined sense of the word, but interpretation with two qualifications: one concerning its scope or field of application, the other its epistemological specificity. As concerns the first point, I should say that there are problems of interpretation because there aretexts, writtentexts, the autonomy of which (as regards either the intention of the author, or the situation of the work, or the destination to privileged readers) creates specific problems; these problems are usually solved in spoken language by...

    • Writing as a Problem for Literary Criticism and Philosophical Hermeneutics
      (pp. 320-337)

      To the extent that hermeneutics is a text-oriented interpretation, and that texts are, among other things, instances of written language, no interpretation theory is possible that does not come to grips with the problem of writing. Therefore the purpose of this essay is twofold. I want first to show that the transition from speaking to writing has its conditions of possibility in the structures of discourse itself, then to connect the kind of intentional exteriorization which writing exhibits to a central problem of hermeneutics, that of distanciation. This same concept of exteriority, which in the first part of this paper...

    • Narrated Time
      (pp. 338-354)

      What I have in mind here is a schematic presentation of the interpretation of human time that I formulate at the end ofTime and Narrative III.That interpretation comes at the end of a long journey which took me through the most noteworthy forms of narrative activity, divided between the history of the historians and narrative fiction, from the epic to the novel. The question to which I am trying to respond is the following: in what way is the ordinary experience of time, borne by daily acting and suffering, refashioned by its passage through the grid of narrative?...

    • Time Traversed: Remembrance of Things Past
      (pp. 355-389)

      Are we justified in looking for a ‘tale about time’ inRemember of Things Past?¹

      This has been contested, paradoxically, in a number of different ways. I shall not linger over the confusion, which contemporary criticism has dispelled, between what might be considered a dissimulated autobiography of Marcel Proust, the author, and the fictional autobiography of the character who says ‘I.’ We now know that if the experience of time can be what is at stake in a novel, this is not due to what the novel borrows from the experience of its real author but rather to literary fiction’s...

    • Between the Text and Its Readers
      (pp. 390-424)

      To what discipline does a theory of reading belong? To poetics? Yes, in so far as the composition of the work governs its reading; no, in so far as other factors enter into play, factors that concern the sort of communication that finds its starting-point in the author, crosses through the work, and finds its end-point in the reader. For it is, indeed, from the author that the strategy of persuasion that has the reader as its target starts out. And it is to this strategy of persuasion that the reader replies by accompanying the configuration and in appropriating the...

    • Life: A Story in Search of a Narrator
      (pp. 425-438)

      That life has to do with narration has always been known and said; we speak of the story of a life to characterize the interval between birth and death. And yet this assimilation of a life to a history should not be automatic; it is a commonplace that should first be subjected to critical doubt. Such doubt is the outcome of all the knowledge acquired in the past few decades concerning the narrative and the narrating activity – knowledge that seems to remove the story from life as lived and locks it away in the realm of fiction.

      First I will...

  8. IV The Dialogical Disclosure:: Interviews with Paul Ricoeur

    • Phenomenology and Theory of Literature
      (pp. 441-447)

      Professor Ricoeur, I have followed with increasing interest your lectures on the application of the phenomenological method to the concept of action in sociology and political science. You have opened up new perspectives in these disciplines, and have brought to them an intense light of a certain specific quality. It is the particular nature of this light which seems to be of an enormous interdisciplinary significance.

      By profession and by inclination, I find myself in another field, that of literature. For us, as René Wellek has so perceptively pointed out, the most urgent need appears to be a cohesive theory...

    • Poetry and Possibility
      (pp. 448-462)

      So, one of the things that we were just speaking about was that perhaps poetry in the United States is a little bit driven inward. I wanted to ask you about the mutual influence of poetry and philosophy. And I want to ask you a question with a lot of prepositions.

      What do you think poetry and philosophy can do to, with, for, against each other?

      The first thing I should like to emphasize is that poetry preserves the width, the breadth of language, because the first danger in our present culture is a kind of reduction of language to...

    • The Creativity of Language
      (pp. 463-481)

      How do your recent works on metaphor (La Métaphore vive,1975) and narrativity (Temps et récit,1983) fit into your overall program of philosophical hermeneutics?

      InLa Métaphore vive, (The Rule of the Metaphor)I tried to show how language could extend itself to its very limits forever discovering new resonances within itself. The termvive(living) in the title of this work is all important, for it was my purpose to demonstrate that there is not just an epistemological and political imagination, but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, alinguisticimagination which generates and regenerates meaning through the living...

    • Myth as the Bearer of Possible Worlds
      (pp. 482-490)

      One of your first attempts at hermeneutic analysis concentrated on the way in which human consciousness was mediated by mythic and symbolic expressions from the earliest times. InThe Symbolism of Evil(I960) you demonstrated how mythic symbols played an important ideological and political role in the ancient cultures of the Babylonians, Hebrews, and Greeks, etc. And in this same work you declared that ‘myth relates to events that happened at the beginning of time which have the purpose of providing grounds for the ritual actions of men today’ (p. 5). Are you suggesting that mythic symbols can play a...

    • World of the Text, World of the Reader
      (pp. 491-498)

      Paul Ricoeur recently publishedA l’école de la phénoménologie(Vrin) andDu texte à l’action(Seuil), a short review of which can be read in the ‘Philosophy’ section ofPréfaces.Although he returns to the question of reading in several articles collected in the latter volume, the essential part of his reflections on this problem is found in the third volume ofTemps et récit,entitledLe Temps raconté,published in fall 1985 by Les Editions du Seuil. In the interview that he granted us, Paul Ricoeur explains how his interest in the question of reading was aroused in the...

  9. Paul Ricoeur’s Work in English
    (pp. 499-504)

    Seven of the twenty books by Ricoeur listed in this bibliography are collections of essays previously published in diverse journals and books; these essays have been gathered by the respective editors with a specific focus or under a general topic. This aspect of Ricoeur’s work in English has given it far greater accessibility than would otherwise obtain, since many, if not most, of the original publications are not universally available.

    I have listed the contents of these collections, but have not done so for the articles as they first appeared in English. The interested scholar will find a complete bibliography...

  10. Index
    (pp. 505-516)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 517-517)