JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 323
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distance or otherness of the text, by understanding it, means that the text
still escapes the interpreter's full understanding (presuppositions). This
"effort of understanding which is found wherever there is no immediate
understanding" sets in motion a process where the interpreter's presup-
positions are gradually worked-out (legitimated or de-legitimated) in an
encounter with the text. In other words, because the text resists the
imposition of the interpreter's presuppositions, the interpreter must (ifhe
or she wishes to interpret/understand the text) filter out legitimate
presuppositions from the illegitimate ones. In this process, the interpreter's
presuppositions will have to prove adequate to the text. That is, they will
have to allow for understanding, or they will have to be modified or
discarded. Hence, the process of interpretation is a matter not of avoiding
our presuppositions but of testing them against the text. As Gadamer
[The] hermeneutically trained mind must be, from the start, sensitive to the
text's newness [otherness]. But this kind of sensitivity involves neither
"neutrality" in the matter of the object nor the extinction of one's self, but
the conscious assimilation of one's own fore-meanings and prejudices.
The important thing is to be aware of one's own bias, so that the text may
present itself in all its newness [otherness] and thus be able to assert its
own truth against one's own fore-meanings. (238)
Because interpretation allows us to examine and modify the legitimacy of
our presuppositions, we cannot conceive of the interpretive act as merely
something that we do to atext, for in this process something also "happens
to us over and above our wanting and doing" (xvi). This reciprocal
instance can be treated as analogous to a "successful dialogue": "Where
participants enter into aconversation with their particular viewpoints, but
as the dialogue unfolds their presuppositions change since "both are
concerned with an object that is placed before them." Gadamer continues,
Just as one person seeks to reach agreement with his partner concerning
an object, so the interpreter understands the object of which the text
speaks. ... If successful they both come under the influence of the truth
of the object and are thus bound to one another in a new community... in
which we do not remain what we were. (341)
In a "successful dialogue," each participant arrives at a resolution that,
thanks to the observations made by each during the discussion, has
transformed their original presuppositions into a "richer understanding."
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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/m1/69/: accessed February 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .