Unbinding traditions: rhetoric, hermeneutics, and the Akedah
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This thesis explores and explicates the relationship between rhetoric and hermeneutics in two separate contexts: Jewish and Christian hermeneutic traditions, and secular philosophical hermeneutics. The impetus for this division is an analysis of Kierkegaard’s work, Fear and Trembling, which contains interpretations of the story of Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac; this event is referred to in the Jewish tradition as the Akedah. Kierkegaard’s own position as a Christian, philosopher and poet situate him on the dividing line between Christian and Jewish hermeneutics, as well as secular philosophical hermeneutic positions. To show these connections, the thesis undertakes two necessary literature reviews: a review of the current theoretical positions on the status of meaning, interpretation, and how rhetoric and hermeneutics intersect; and a review of the history of interpretations of the Akedah in Christian and Jewish traditions. Out of the first review come three separate and general categories of secular hermeneutics: intentionalist, phenomenological, and deconstructive. Within each of these positions is a different understanding and application of rhetoric. Similarly, the second review reveals differences between Jewish and Christian hermeneutics which contain separate understandings and applications of rhetoric. Kierkegaard’s own interpretation is situated within these contexts. Finally, modern Jewish responses to Kierkegaard are examined to further explicate the differences between Jewish and Christian hermeneutics as well as the separate philosophical positions. This is done through an analysis of Levinas’ and Derrida’s separate critiques and appropriations of Kierkegaard’s interpretation of the Akedah in Fear and Trembling. The conclusion drawn from these reviews and analyses is that intentionalist hermeneutics has the most comprehensive understanding and application of classical rhetoric, which in turn makes intentionalist hermeneutics the most capable of preserving the possibility of rhetorical agency.
Butcher, Joshua Thomas (2006). Unbinding traditions: rhetoric, hermeneutics, and the Akedah. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from