Exam List 5: Deconstruction vs. Hermeneutics

This list investigates the sites and grounds of conflict and commonality between Deconstruction and Hermeneutics as critical practices and philosophies of interpretation. I will proceed through the examination of two principle categories of texts, namely foundational texts and moments of dialogue or debate between the two approaches.

With regard to foundational texts, the list will trace the history of modern hermeneutics from its frequently referenced origins in Friedrich Schleiermacher’s biblical exegesis and in Wilhelm Dilthey’s approach to the human sciences, through the philosophical hermeneutics of Martin Heidegger and its re-articulations by Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, to the subsequent development in hermeneutic theory represented by the reception aesthetics of Hans Robert Jauss and the “weak thought” of Gianni Vattimo. I will also follow the emergence of deconstruction in the work of Derrida and De Man, as well as in key moments in its subsequent reception and development.

Several of the remaining texts stage moments of direct engagement between hermeneutic and deconstructive approaches, in particular: between Ricoeur and Derrida; between Jauss and De Man; between Derrida and Gadamer; three responses to Heidegger (Nancy, De Man, and Derrida); and the differing responses to hermeneutics of Derrida and Habermas.

Primary Texts:


De Man, Paul. “The Resistance to Theory,” “The Return to Philology,” and “Reading and History” in The Resistance to Theory;
— “Semiology and Rhetoric,” “Genesis and Genealogy,” “Rhetoric of Tropes,” “Rhetoric of Persuasion,” “Metaphor,” and “Excuses” in Allegories of Reading
— “Form and Intent in the American New Criticism,” “The Rhetoric of Blindness,” and “Heidegger’s Exegeses of Hölderlin” in Blindness and Insight.
— “Patterns of Temporality in Heidegger” in Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism

Derrida, Jacques. “La Mythologie Blanche,” “Différance” in Marges;
La Voix et le Phénomène;
De la Grammatologie;
Mémoires : pour Paul de Man;
— “Typewriter Ribbon” in Without Alibi.
— “Le Retrait de la métaphore.” in Psyché : Inventions de l’autre.

Johnson, Barbara. The Critical Difference; The Wake of Deconstruction.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. Le Partage des Voix.


Dilthey, Wilhem. Selected Works, Volume IV: Hermeneutics and the Study of History.

Gadamer, Hans Georg. Truth and Method.

Heidegger, Martin. Elucidations on Hölderlin’s Poetry; Nietzsche, Vol. 1; “Statement as a Derivative Mode of Interpretation” in Being and Time.

Jauss, Hans Robert. Towards an Aesthetic of Reception; “Response to Paul de Man” in Reading de Man Reading.

Ricoeur, Paul. The Rule of Metaphor; The Conflict of Interpretations.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. “Hermeneutics and Criticism,” “General Hermeneutics” in Hermeneutics and Criticism and Other Writings.

Vattimo, Gianni. Beyond Interpretation: The Meaning of Hermeneutics for Philosophy.

Secondary Texts

Bennington, Geoffrey and Jacques Derrida. Jacques Derrida.

Culler, Jonathan. On Deconstruction.

Gasché, Rodolphe. Selections from Inventions of Difference: On Jacques Derrida.

Lawler, Leonard. Imagination and Chance: The Difference Between the Thought of Ricoeur and Derrida.

Michelfelder, Diane and Richard Palmer (eds.). Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter.

Palmer, Richard. Hermeneutics.

Silverman, Hugh. Selections from Textualities: Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction.

Szondi, Peter. Introduction to Literary Hermeneutics (Literature, Culture, Theory).

Thomassen, Lasse (ed.). The Derrida/Habermas Reader.

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