JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 321
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reflect and conform to the laws of annotation, which are to define,
maintain, and transmit an event/text. By following a sketch of some ofthe
claims ofhermeneutics (as proposed by Gadamer), I wish to point out the
inevitable limits that the annotator will face as he or she interprets and
transmits the meaning of texts hermeneutically-that is, within the
generating and constrained laws of the genre.
Grasping Meaning: The Enabling Prejudices of the Present
According to Gadamer, "everything written is in fact in a special way, the
object ofhermeneutics" (336).5 Even that which is intended as little more
than a gloss on or a concise reordering of the rhetorical divisions and
figures of a text is guided by a genre that works within the past and present
presuppositions of our tradition-our historicality. Whereas historicism
makes its claims to objectivity by proposing to raise itself from the
presuppositions of the past and present, hermeneutics regards these
presuppositions as continuous, as bridged by tradition, as making pos-
sible the actual fusion of understanding. Because the interpreter cannot
occupy some neutral point outside of his or her linguistically mediated
understandings and presuppositions, Gadamer claims, "there can be no
such thing as a direct approach to the historical object that would
objectively reveal its historical value" or meaning (292). There is no
Archimedian point from which human reason (the interpretive method of
historicism) can order or recover the past as "objective knowledge" for
the present. He goes on, "the truth is that there is always contained in
historical understanding the idea that the tradition [transmitted to] us
speaks into the present and must be understood in this mediation-
indeed, as this mediation" (293). For Gadamer then, we can only under-
stand from within our present mediation (within our linguistic-historical
presuppositions) and so cannot claim to recover some supposed meaning
of the historical object apart from our present reconstruction of it.
Gadamer attempts to avoid the problematics that would result from such
a claim-namely, that of a self-enclosed present-by proposing that our
present presuppositions are not hermetically sealed, but rather are "en-
abling prejudices" that "open-up" to the reflective application of one's
The fact that the interpreter reads through a specific medium of
presuppositions that selects, accents, suppresses, and orders certain
aspects ofthe text, creates not the obstacle for grasping the meaning ofthe
text but its enabling condition. Because a text is always at a distance from
the present, we need to overcome that distance by making sense of it, by
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/67/: accessed February 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .