Dr. Christopher Cairney
Middle Georgia State University
College of Arts & Sciences
English Department
Georgia USA

Keynote Title: “Phenomenology of Reception for Student Engagement: Intertextuality and Intratextuality as Hermeneutic Tools in Literary Analysis”

Abstract: When discussing student reading, “comprehension” is said to be the conjunction of three things: the text, reading, and background knowledge. Student engagement with a text can, of course, be improved by “massaging” each of these, perhaps in concert.  The “text” can be authoritative, attractive, readable or footnoted. “Reading”: strategies can be taught such as SQ3R, KWL tables, PQRST, and others. “Background knowledge” can be “massaged” by “preloading” key vocabulary from a text or by discussing macrohistory or microhistory, whichever contrasts more with the information in the text. Often the purpose of reading a literary text is to capture or apprehend a meaning, some meaning (commonly referred to as “the meaning”). This might amount to a reconstructed—or naïvely, if productively, garnered—“authorial” meaning. “Reception” for the student in such cases may mean looking past the reservations posited by Reception Theory about any authorial meaning in order to help the student garner something identifiable, intentional, and arguably useful in terms of the meaning of a text. Facilitating student engagement with a text could require at times some specific “tool” as an aid: “one path” out of many, but one path nonetheless that could facilitate the apprehension of some part of that intentional original meaning, and which could serve also as one example of the potential usefulness of any method that leads to comprehension of some meaning. So it serves a simultaneous dual purpose. Such tools would be hermeneutic in that they lead to the analysis of meaning. If they could be modelled first, such hermeneutic tools or strategies would be of practical benefit to any student at any level both for their immediate benefit and as a contribution to their longer-term development. Such a tool might be “phenomenological” for two reasons: it could be harnessed to the student’s own authentic conscious view and active process of analysis and sudden apprehension of meaning (epiphany), and also in that it leads the student to attempt a phenomenological understanding of the author’s view via a “noumenal empathy”—the abstracted idea of empathy—to empathetically understand the author by grasping some portion of the original spectrum of meaning intended at the time and place of writing. With the goal of putting “theory into (a) practice” and in the hope of facilitating a method of textual analysis of meaning that can work practically as an accessible tool for the student, I come to intertextuality and intratextuality. “Intertextuality” is an arguably an overworked term, sometimes essentially meaning nothing other than allusion, sometimes meaning something quite different.  My usage follows the workmanlike application of the term in semiotics to mean allusion and other similar diachronic interactions possible between texts. “Intratextuality” is used here in a “sisterly” way to indicate potential interactions between different texts (and potentially all or any texts) by a single author.  The authors James Joyce and Joseph Conrad offer the student an opportunity to practice uncovering unexpected connections between texts, using intertextuality and intratextuality as hermeneutic tools facilitating the discovery of meanings in an archeological, and therefore surprising and engaging, way.

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