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  • Cited by 10
  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: February 2010

3 - Between author and text


I ended ‘Overinterpreting texts’ with a dramatic question: can we still be concerned with the empirical author of a text? When I speak with a friend I am interested in detecting the intention of the speaker, and when I receive a letter from a friend I am interested in realizing what the writer wanted to say. In this sense I feel perplexed when I read the jeu de massacre performed by Derrida upon a text signed by John Searle. Or, rather, I take it only as a splendid exercise in philosophical paradoxes, without forgetting that Zeno, when demonstrating the impossibility of movement, was nevertheless aware that for doing that he had at least to move both his tongue and his lips. There is a case, however, where I feel sympathetic with many reader-oriented theories. When a text is put in the bottle – and this happens not only with poetry or narrative but also with The Critique of Pure Reason – that is, when a text is produced not for a single addressee but for a community of readers – the author knows that he or she will be interpreted not according to his or her intentions but according to a complex strategy of interactions which also involves the readers, along with their competence in language as a social treasury. I mean by social treasury not only a given language as a set of grammatical rules, but also the whole encyclopedia that the performances of that language have implemented, namely, the cultural conventions that that language has produced and the very history of the previous interpretations of many texts, comprehending the text that the reader is in the course of reading.