The Reader, The Interpreter and 'The Waste Land' Recycled

C.A. Runcie


If one did not live at a time when authors, attending academic conferences on literary theory, anxiously offer themselves as empirical proof of living authorhood and declare they honestly meant something particular in writing their work, one might not need the recent reassuring little volume, Interpretation and overinterpretation. This work features the Tanner Lectures for 1990 with essays by Umberto Eco, Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler and Christine Brooke-Rose. As it is, on this occasion, David Lodge, Malcolm Bradbury and Eco himself felt compelled as living authors to testify to meaning something and not everything whenever they write a work. And so not a moment too soon do we have Eco' s recalling academe from epistemological hypochondria or 'epistemological fanaticism' , to use his phrase. Not a moment too soon do we have Eco's cautioning against unlimited semiosis, his defence of the intention of the work, his criterion of interpretative economy, and his Popperian notion that some interpretations can be shown to be invalid, unacceptable or inadequate, tenable or untenable - terms Eco uses at various times (pp.15-16, 78 et passim).

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