zondag 5 april 2009

Truth and Method Fifty Years After: Gadamer’s Influence on the Humanities

Truth and Method Fifty Years After: Gadamer’s Influence on the Humanities

Almost fifty years ago, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method (1960) appeared. Among philosophers and theologians, this classic study of interpretation has enjoyed a spectacular reception history. But what sort of Gadamerian influences can be traced in the humanities (history, art history, classics, literary studies, etc.)? How has Truth and Method changed the humanities?

Initially, the reception of Gadamerian hermeneutics within the humanities seemed dominated by criticisms such as E.D. Hirsch’s. Accustomed to the language of method and objectivity, many of Hirsch’s generation rejected a hermeneutics that was distinctively unmethodological and openly hostile toward epistemological subject-object dichotomies.

However, fifty years after Gadamer’s book the influence of Truth and Method seems to have grown larger than Hirsch’s generation could imagine. Dozens of studies on Gadamer’s significance for (art) history or literary studies have appeared. Since many of these studies stay within the realm of prolegomena to the practice of interpretation, one wonders what broader tendencies they represent. In what sense, if any, do they reflect changing attitudes toward Gadamerian hermeneutics within the humanities? How have they contributed to the reception history of Truth and Method among (art) historians, literary scholars, classicists, etc.?

Besides, within these practices of interpretation the past decades have witnessed a rapidly increased openness to some of the themes which Truth and Method famously addressed. These include (but are not limited to) the interpreter’s subject-position, the irreducibility of interpretation to method, the inseparability of meaning and significance, and the mediated nature of knowledge. Is there a sense in which we might speak of a hermeneutic “turn”? To what extent can this turn be attributed to an engagement with Gadamer’s classic text?

For a conference to be held on the eve of Truth and Method’s fiftieth anniversary, we solicit proposals dealing with the influence of Gadamer’s book on the theory and practice of interpretation in the humanities. In particular, we welcome three types of papers:

1. case studies that show in detail how interpretations of selected texts or artworks have changed, or could change, in the light of Gadamerian insights;
2. discipline-specific overviews that show how Truth and Method, or the secondary literature on Gadamer, has helped transform the disciplines traditionally belonging to the humanities;
3. critical studies that address the benefits and problems of Gadamerian hermeneutics within the humanities.

The conference is scheduled to take place from August 26 – 28, 2010, at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Papers may be presented either in English or in German. A selection of papers will be published in a volume edited by the conference organizers.

Proposals are due on September 1, 2009. Please send an abstract (300-500 words) to Madeleine Kasten. Acceptance decisions will be communicated by October 1. Informal suggestions and inquiries are welcome.

Dr. Madeleine Kasten, Assistant Professor of Literary Studies, m.j.a.kasten@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Dr. Herman Paul, Assistant Professor of Historical Theory, h.j.paul@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Dr. Marlein van Raalte, Assistant Professor of Greek Language and Literature, m.van.raalte@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Dr. Rico Sneller, Assistant Professor of Ethics and History of Philosophy, h.w.sneller@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Dr. Gerard Visser, Associate Professor of Philosophy of Culture, g.t.m.visser@hum.leidenuniv.nl