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Theories of the text seminar series (four lectures)

Professor Gavin Flood
Wednesday, 25 January 2006 - 3:45pm

The study of texts is fundamental to Theology and Religious Studies. The aim of this series of seminars is to examine some theories of the text over the last fifty years that have arisen within the human sciences and to examine their implications for the study of religions. These developments have broadly occurred within what has become known as the linguistic turn and postmodernism along with reactions to it. As we now move beyond these intellectual movements (beyond theory to coin a recent term by Terry Eagleton) we need to reassess the role of the text, particularly the religious text, and examine the kinds of reading practices that are available to us.

Questions concerning the nature of texts, the nature of reading, the importance of narrative, the relation of sign to symbol, the relation of text to author and of text to reader or community of readers are fundamental to any understanding of religion and culture. The seminars are therefore intended to provide a preliminary overview of developments within phenomenology, hermeneutics, semiotics and narratology. Because of the vast nature of the topic, these seminars can only hope to offer pointers in particular directions, raise questions about textuality, and encourage the raising of questions about the text within students‚particular fields of interest. Perhaps the most pervasive theme that the seminars will often return to concerns the question of the subject of the text which itself entails questions about agency and reception. Other questions might also be considered such as the implications of broadening the concept to text to include oral texts. Through examining questions shared by all scholars concerned with texts it is hoped that the cross fertilisation of ideas will facilitate new understandings and applications.
  1. Introduction: What is a text? What is a sacred text?
  2. Intention in the text: Phenomenology
  3. Sign in the Text: Semiotics (and Deconstruction)
  4. The text in action: Social Science
  5. The text in the reader: Theories of Reception