Mimetic Reading

Is the unconscious involved in our reading of a text? Does the reader’s unconscious engages the text? Is there a mimetic reading? mimesis of the past is based on sense of fidelity to the cumulative deposit of socially interpreted life patterns and cultural products. Mimetic reading is often a biographical reading. It takes the text as the mirror of the individual or collective self. Text is viewed as a happy validation of the self. This is why there is an involvement of spontaneous response to the provocations and incitements of the text that the reader is engaging. One may say that it is almost a premeditative use of interpretive means inherited from the past. We are already born into language and interpretive frameworks. These received traditions influence our readings and interpretations.

Martin Heidegger says that we as beings-in-the-world are thrown into an ‘already-at-hand interpretative framework’. This interpretive framework is thought as normal and natural and constitutes our ideational as well affective ‘home’. It is our existential opening or door to encounter our experience of the world. Although our mind is a tabula rasa, we internalize our inherited framework of interpretation or tradition. This means our inherited framework becomes a cultural habitus and a situs of tradition. This is why we can do conservative readings that keep us locked within the status quo of a tradition. We do bring to bear our cumulative prejudice of the past upon the text that read and become even fanatic fundamentalist.

Hans George Gadamer critically rehabilitates the role of prejudice arguing against the objectivity of enlightenment. This means we have to recognize the cumulative existential prejudice from the past, which constituted the necessary and or unavoidable conditions for the possibility of reading and interpretation. Mostly all interpretation occurred in the same tradition, the postmodern turn drew our attention to cross-cultural readings. This reading with other traditions comes from the interxtual character of text. We can find this at work in the diatopical hermeneutics of Raimundo Panikkar which is based on the mutual fecundity of two or more traditions. We can also trace it in the fusion of horizons of Gadamer.

All reading is a hermeneutics of trust and hence, is mimetic. There are also texts that may interrogate the reader or the readers may be provoked to interrogate the text. Hence, the text may produce hermeneutics of suspicion. This means hermeneutics of trust leads us to validate or affirm our mimetic heritage in the face of the other mimetic tradition. But this affirmation of one’s own mimetic tradition can result in suspicion of the other tradition. Hence, we have to approach the hermeneutic of suspicion in the spirit of Emanuel Levinas that embraces an ethics that does not seek to assimilate the otherness of the other in one’s sameness. Therefore, we have to avoid hegemonic soliloquies when we encounter diverse textual traditions.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao