The Hermeneutic Approach to Theatre and Drama

  • Elinor Shaffer
Part of the New Directions in Theatre book series (NDT)


‘Hermeneutics’, or the art of interpretation, today more precisely the theory of interpretative methods in the humanities and social sciences, has emerged as one of the most stimulating and productive of several new directions in recent criticism. It is hardly a complete newcomer: traditionally associated with techniques of exegesis or explanation of individual passages of the Bible and the classics, it has since the late eighteenth century been increasingly applied to a wide range of texts. One of the steps in this direction was the perception that the Bible was not a uniquely inspired or revealed text, but itself literary in character; thus techniques for explicating the Bible became fully available for explicating literary texts generally, and these techniques in turn underwent a sea-change as what we would now call ‘literary criticism’ began to be formulated and practised.


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Further Reading

Introductions to hermeneutics of literature

  1. Eagleton, Terry, ‘Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Reception Theory’, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Oxford, 1983 ) pp. 54–90.Google Scholar
  2. Hirsch, E. D., Jr, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven, Conn., 1967 ). Hoy, David Couzens, The Critical Circle: Literature and History in Contemporary Hermeneutics ( Berkeley, Calif., 1978 ).Google Scholar
  3. Palmer, Richard, Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer ( Evanston, Ill., 1969 ).Google Scholar

Hermeneutic Critics

  1. Dilthey, Wilhelm, ‘The Development of Hermeneutics’, Selected Writings (Cambridge, 1976) pp. 246–63.Google Scholar
  2. Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Truth and Method, ed. Garret Barden and Gohr Cummings (New York, 1975 ).Google Scholar
  3. Heidegger, Martin, ‘The Age of the World View’, trs. Marjorie Grene, in Boundary, 4, no. 2 (1976).Google Scholar
  4. Ricoeur, Paul, ‘What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding’ and in ‘The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text’, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, trs. and ed. John B. Thompson (Cambridge, 1981) pp. 145–64, 197–221.Google Scholar
  5. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, ‘On Translation’, in German Romantic Criticism (Oxford, 1982) pp. 1–25.Google Scholar

Hermeneutics of Drama

  1. Lukacs, Georg, ‘Historical Novel and Historical Drama’, The Historical Novel, trs. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell ( Harmondsworth, Middx, 1969 ).Google Scholar
  2. Palmer, Richard, ‘Towards a Postmodern Hermeneutics of Performance’, in Michel Benamou and Charles Caramello (eds), Performance in Postmodern Culture ( Madison, Wis., 1977 ).Google Scholar
  3. Peck, Jeffrey M. (compiler), ‘Bibliography of Hermeneutics: Literary and Biblical Interpretation’, in E. S. Shaffer (ed.), Comparative Criticism, y (Cambridge, 1983 ).Google Scholar
  4. Plessnor, Helmuth, Laughing and Crying: A Study of the Limits of Human Behavior ( Evanston, Ill., 1970 ).Google Scholar
  5. Turner, Victor, Dramas, Fields and Metaphors ( Ithaca, NY, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  6. Turner, Victor, From Ritual to Theatre (New York, 1982 ).Google Scholar
  7. Turner, Victor, ‘Universals of Performance’ (1982), in E. S. Shaffer (ed.), Comparative Criticism, viii (Cambridge, 1986 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elinor Shaffer 1993

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  • Elinor Shaffer

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