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Steven Mailloux

Reading, explicating, making sense: these are three names given to the activity
of interpretation, the topic of this essay.- First of all he defines the idea of
interpretation, what it is and what it implies
In its etymology, then, interpretation conveys the sense of a translation pointed
in two directions simultaneously: toward a text to be interpreted and for an
audience in need of the interpretation.- This idea suggests us that we should try
to focus our attention towards two things: what we interpret and to whom we do it
Interpretation is acceptable and approximating translation.- Which means that
we, as interpreters, are some kind of interpreters of signs and hidden meanings,
which we are supposed to render according to our own point of view, that is why
it is an approximating translation
1. Approximating what?
2. Translating how?
3. Acceptable to whom?
These are the three questions that we should think about when making an attempt to
interpret any text.
Approximating what?
Ultimately, anything can be viewed as a text, anything can be interpreted. this idea
suggests us that we can consider anything as a text, we are the ones who decide whether a
text is a text that can be interpreted or not.
Interpretations can be defined differently:
-According to the formalist theory: what determines our interpretations is what they
approximate, the word on the page.
-According to the intentionalist theory: interpretations are constrained by the intention
behind or in the words.
Both formalist and intentionalist theories attempt to provide foundation for constraining
the interpretative relationship between reader and text. Often, such theories not only
claim to describe how interpretation takes place but to prescribe how it should take place.
These foundationalist theories present themselves as both general accounts of making
sense and specific guides to correct interpretations.
Translating how?
Interpretive conventions provide a way of describing the process of interpretation rather
than its textual object.
- All these strategies- historicizing, allegorizing, punning, and using etymologies- can be
restated as rules for correct interpretation.
-Neutral principles- they are often suggested to be the best method
Acceptable to whom?
-Hermeneutic question of how text and reader interact to the rhetorical question of how
interpreters interact with other interpreters in trying to argue for or against different
The politics of interpretation

Interpretive theories are not foundational, but rhetorical, establishing no permanent

grounding or guiding principles guaranteeing correct interpretation but certainly
providing much rhetorical substance for interpretive debate.
Our beliefs and commitments are no less real because they are historical, and the same
holds for our interpretations. If no foundationalist theory will resolve disagreements over
poems or treaties, we must always argue our cases. In fact, that is all we can ever do.The last phrase, as an advice for interpreters of any time.