Hermeneutics beyond the Species Boundary Explanation and Understanding in Animal Narratives David Herman Is textual action (what we're willing to do with words) where behavioral theory might begin? --Thalia Field, Bird Lovers, Backyard Although my epigraph is taken from the case study in narrative experimentation to be discussed in this essay--namely, Thalia Field's reflexive, polygeneric text Bird Lovers, Backyard (2010)--it resonates with key contributions made by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur to the domain of hermeneutical theory. Specifically, Field's formulation can be compared with the program for research outlined by Ricoeur in essays such as "Explanation and Understanding," "The Hermeneutical Function of Distanciation," and "The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text." In these studies Ricoeur argues that ways of engaging with texts provide a model for interpreting action, while also positing a dialectical relationship between understanding (Verstehen) and explanation (Erklärung). Ricoeur follows the hermeneutical tradition in linking understanding to the top-down, pre- or nondeliberative use of available schemes for sense-making, and explanation to the bottom-up, deliberative modification of those schemes; such modification is required when default assumptions about how the world works fail to find purchase. He further argues that "rather than constituting mutually exclusive
StoryWorlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Sep 9, 2016
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