Gadamer; Habermas and a Re-humanized Literary Scholarship
Keywords:philosophical hermeneutics, literary theory, literature as communication, mediating scholarship, Gadamer, Habermas, Dickens, T.S. Eliot
This paper speaks of an ongoing re-humanization of literary studies to which the work of Gadamer and Habermas can valuably contribute. True; these two thinkers themselves run the risk becoming the focus of commentaries that are aridly scholastic. True; too; they themselves tend to think of literature as an aesthetic heterocosm that is quite distinct from human communication in general. Yet human communication in general is something they certainly understand; and their profound insights into it can actually be applied to literature; in ways which they themselves have not envisaged. Especially relevant in Gadamer is his sense of the changes which can be brought about by communication; and his rehabilitation of common sense. In both Gadamer and Habermas; there is also a clear recognition of communicational dialogicality; and of communication’s sheer possibility; even between human beings who are very differently placed. To this can be added Habermas’s central insistence on ethical considerations – on human equality; on truthfulness; on trust; on fairness; on cooperativeness – as an integral dimension of communication at its most genuine. These insights can facilitate the discussion as illustrated with the writings of Dickens and T.S. Eliot.
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