A hermeneutics of literary identities

Published: February 9, 2024
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In hermeneutics, to understand and then to interpret a narrative text implies identifying its markers of ambiguity—its riddles and enigmas—which are interconnected like a cobweb. In this article, the researcher develops a literary hermeneutic model for interpreting any literary narrative text, based on the conceptual arsenal of literary hermeneutics and narratology. The model is called ‘divinatory’, since it is inspired by Friedrich Schleiermacher’s idea for ‘divinatory hermeneutics’ and Roland Barthes’ ‘hermeneutic code’, and it is applied on a very enigmatic short story by Julio Cortázar. The theoretical premise of the article also argues for the benefits of studying the complex systems of literary identities in literary texts and of re-establishing hermeneutics of literature as a ‘hermeneutics of literary identities’.

Due to its unique ambiguity, Cortázar’s famous short story “Las babas del diablo” has numerous interpretations and too many title translations: after Michelangelo Antonioni’s movie, it is known as “Blow-Up” in English, but also “The Devil’s Drool”, “The Devil’s Cobweb”, “The Cobweb/Kiss of St. Michael’s Summer”, and “The Thread of the Virgin” in other languages. Therefore, its unriddling divinatory interpretation provides an excellent initial interpretative model for any fictional narrative text. By analyzing the hermeneutically encoded aspects of its main narrative factors—the story and its discourse, narrator/s and focalization, narrative time and space, as well as intertextual connections—this interpretation finds that the short story’s search for the identities of its subjects and events is, in fact, a search for the hermeneutic identity of meaning.

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Publication history note: This is the first publication of this essay in its English translation. This translated version has also been significantly updated and modified. Its first introductory theoretical parts are shortened to half their original length. All parts of the model-defining thesis and the structural composition in the main body of the text remain the same, but the application parts are extended, updated, and modified to match and elaborate on the English translation of the analyzed short story, which greatly differs from the previously analyzed Macedonian one. The reference list is updated accordingly. The previous version of the essay has been published only in Macedonian: firstly, in Kjulavkova, K. (2005) Hermenevtika na kniževnite identiteti [A Hermeneutics of Literary Identities]. In Dijalog na interpretacii [Dialogue of Interpretations], K. Kjulavkova, J. Bessier, and Ph. Daros (eds.), Skopje, Ǵurǵa, pp. 61–115; later, for instance, in Kjulavkova, K. (2006) Hermenevtika na identiteti [Hermeneutics of Identi-ties]. Kumanovo, Makedonska rizinica, pp. 61–104.

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How to Cite

Kjulavkova, K. (2024). A hermeneutics of literary identities. Proceedings of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, 3. https://doi.org/10.4081/peasa.23