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Revolution of the OrdinaryLiterary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell$
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Toril Moi

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226464305

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.001.0001

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“Nothing Is Hidden”

“Nothing Is Hidden”

Beyond the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

(p.175) 8 “Nothing Is Hidden”
Revolution of the Ordinary

Toril Moi

University of Chicago Press

As Rita Felski has documented, many literary critics believe that the task of literary criticism is to produce critique, and that critique requires readers to practice some form of the hermeneutics of suspicion, for example by practicing “symptomatic reading.” This chapter argues that recent theories of “surface reading,” which explicitly challenge these ideas, still accept the “supicious” picture of texts as objects with surface and depth. Wittgenstein’s understanding of language as use challenges this picture by considering language as action and expression, and by denying that utterances always hide something. By investigating the reading practices of Sherlock Holmes, Freud, and Kierkegaard, the chapter argues that hermeneuticists of suspicion don’t in fact do anything special. Like other critics, they simply look and think. There aren’t specific methods for reading. Critics bring different theoretical investments, and different thematic interests to their readings. But such differences are not methodological differences, in the sense that the sciences give this term. A reading begins when the critic notices something in the text which makes her ask “Why this?” Good readings are attempts to respond to the “Why this?” question.

Keywords:   hermeneutics of suspicion, surface reading, symptomatic reading, critique, Rita Felski, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Søren Kierkegaard, Sherlock Holmes, Sigmund Freud, method in literary studies

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