Fixing meaning: intertextuality, inferencing and genre in interpretation

Malik, Rachel Yasmin (2002) Fixing meaning: intertextuality, inferencing and genre in interpretation. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The intertextual theories of V. N. Voloshinov, Mikhail Bakhtin and the early Julia Kristeva provide the most convincing account of the processes of textual production, conceived as constitutively social, cultural and historical. However, the ways in which intertextual accounts of reading (or 'use') have extended such theories have foreclosed their potential. In much contemporary literary and cultural theory, it is assumed that reading, conceived intertextually, is no simple decoding process, but there is little interest in what interpretation, as a process, is, and its relations to reading. It is these questions which this thesis seeks to answer. The introduction sets the scene both for the problem and its methodological treatment: drawing certain post-structuralist and pragmatic theories of meaning into confrontation, and producing a critical synthesis. Part one (chapters one to three) elaborate these two traditions of meaning and stages the encounter. Chapter one offers detailed expositions of Voloshinov, Bakhtin and Kristeva, contrasting these with other intertextual theories of production and reception. Chapter two examines inferential
accounts of communication within pragmatics, focusing on Paul Grice and on Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson's Relevance theory. Chapter three stages an encounter
between these radically different traditions. A common ground is identified: both are rhetorical approaches to meaning, focusing on the relations between texts, contexts and their producers and interpreters. Each tradition is then subjected to the theoretical scrutiny of the other. Inferential theories expose the lack of specificity in intertextual accounts which completely ignore inferencing as a process. Intertextual theories reveal that text and context have semantically substantive intertextual dimensions, most particularly genre and register (conceived intertextually) which are ignored by
inferential theories. Text and context are therefore far more semantically fixed than such theories suppose. Both traditions ignore the role of production practices other than 'speech' or 'writing', i.e. they ignore how publishing practices - editing, design, production and marketing - constitute genre and shape reading. In Part Two
(chapters four to six), the critique is developed into an account of interpretation. Interpretation, conceived intertextually, is significantly, though not exclusively, inferential, but inferential processes do not 'work' in the ways proposed by existing inferential theories. Patterns of inference are ordered by the relations between discourses (in Foucault's sense) and genres in the text, the reader's knowledge and the conditions of reading. Chapter four elaborates the concepts required for such an account of interpretation, centring on the role of publishing processes and the text's material form in shaping interpretation. The limits of existing accounts of the edition and publishing, specifically Gerard Genette's Paratexts and work in the 'new' textual studies, call for a more expansive account of how publishing shapes genre and interpretation. Chapters five and six develop two case-studies which extend these concepts and arguments. These examine two contemporary publishing categories: 'classics' (Penguin, Everyman etc.) and literary theory textbooks (Introductions and Readers). Through the detailed analyses of particular editions, I develop and
substantiate a stronger and richer account of interpretation as process and practice and its relation to reading. This is expanded in the final chapter.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: B. > Theses
Item ID: 13472
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2015 15:10
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:46

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