Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
Critical Essays, Reviews
Literature, Literary History, Literary Study

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Rocco DiStreitlmahn

This really seems to be a debate between exegesis and hermeneutics. Although I haven't read it, from its reviews Stubbs' bio of Donne would seem to be an example of exegesis and as such has a responsibility simply to contextualize Donne's work, situating its origins and "original" meaning (that is, the meaning it may have had to its original audience) in Donne's own time and place. It may have been more ambitious of Stubbs to engage Donne's work hermeneutically while at the same time explicating it exegetically, but I don't think it's exactly fair to fault him for not doing this -- exegesis by itself is a pefectly legitimate scholarly task. Maybe that's what you're really quarreling w/, Dan -- that literary bios usually aspire to scholarship rather than criticism.

Jonathan  Mayhew

Not really. Exegesis is a virtual synonym for hermeneutics, although hermeneutics usually implies a more theoretical approach, a theory of interpretation rather than just an interpretation.

Both criticism and biography can draw on scholarship or research. and biography doesn't really tell us what the work meant to its original audience either. After all, the original audience for an author is usually unaware of many biographical motivations, since bios are usually written post mortem. In some cases it might tell us what the work meant to the friends of a writer, but I'm assuming that most readers don't fall into that category.

Rocco DiStreitlmahn

Sorry, I meant to say only that Stubbs' bio seems to aspire to something more scholarly, in that it attempts to explain the provenance of Donne's poems in terms of his historical context and his individual experience of that context and doesn't delve into the kind of aesthetic analysis and interpretation that Dan seems to favor. In a sense, Stubbs' explication of provenance is an attempt to reconstruct the meaning of Donne's texts for at least one member of their original audience -- Donne himself.

I agree that exegesis and hermeneutics are closely related, however I was thinking of how the terms are often used by many scholars in Biblical Studies, where exegesis attempts to situate a given text in its historical and cultural moment, and hermeneutics attempts to interpret and explain the relevance of that text for contemporary readers.

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