Satire and Hermeneutics

In order to keep this thing going since I clearly don't write for the Tiger anymore, I still intend to keep substantive work here for a while. So I'll cross apply something I wrote for fly.paper and bring it over here.

Subjects for special consideration are (1) the author, (2) the literary work, (3) the interpreter… The literary work contains either judgments, opinions and hypotheses about the spirits or the experience of sensible things or (2) varied experience, or (3) intellectual, moral and technical things of human intention and operation. So much with regard to the theme. With regard to the contemplative mode the general, special and singular purpose of the author must be considered in themselves or according to the author’s object and purpose. In themselves, propositions are either affirmative or negative or doubtful, and each of them is either universal or special or individual.
--Antonius Guillielmus Amo, Treatise on the Art of Philosophising Soberly and Accurately, pg. 234-237

When one considers this premise, one can come to the notion that satire is the clearest breaking of the hermeneutic circle. The author, the text, and the interpreter are three separate entities that are linked by their relation to the work. The work contains the ideas of the author but is interpreted by the reader. In order for the reader to impart his/her ideas, s/he must be extremely clear in his/her intentions. Satire intends to teach these intentions but through absurdest means. While it is conceivable for the interpreter to gather the authors intentions, they can still be lost in the text due to some flaw in the interpretation by the interpreter or through a lack of adeptness in the author. Yet, satire is so dependent on the accuracy of the interpretation by the reader through the work that it is a clear breaking of the circle.

In order for the hermeneutic circle to have some sense of purity, the three entities must be linked by the text but still maintain some sense of separation. Yet satire involves the author, through his/her ideology, reaching from his/her mind through the text to the reader and bashing his/her point over the reader's head, yelling, "This is what I want you to gather from this piece." There is too much room for error for it to be anything otherwise, especially considering the wide variance of points that can be made in any text.

But this is not to say satire should be avoided. It is to say any reader or interpreter must understand this "flaw" of the form when encountering it. Authors should not be discouraged at misinterpretations of satirical texts, since they must realize the form subverts like nothing else in literature. Interpreters must be fully cognizant that satire main intention is the author being purposefully didactic. Scholars mustn't believe those who miss the point of satire to be daft, but must look at the work contextually at both the craft of the text and the readership of the time.

If one can keep all of this in mind, one can have a greater understanding of this extremely elusive literary form.


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