Histories of Meaning

of Meaning

Earl Jackson, Jr.

Winter 1999

Envisioning the Seminar

Histories of Meaning. An intense selective survey of specific
moments in the history of Western European philosophies of signification,
from Plato to Augustine. We will be concerned not only with the differences
among the texts but also the differences among modes of reading. Each half
of the seminar will be characterized by a specific mode of reading that
will inform the modes of critical engagement ventured.

Seminar Part One (Weeks
1-6) Exegetical Mode

In the first half of the seminar we will read texts from Classical to
late Antiquity that have as one of their preoccupations questions concerning
the production, dissemination, and reception of meaning. Rigorous attention
will be paid to the lexica of each tradition represented in the works we

Seminar Part Two (Weeks
7-10) Hermeneutic Mode

The second half of the seminar consists of self-conscious experiments
in hermeneutic encounters between a premodern text or texts and a modern
or contemporary critical practice. The exegetical rigor exercised in the
first half of the seminar will not be abandoned, however.


and Requirements

Weekly Response Papers

Throughout the seminar, short, semi-informal response papers will be
due the weekend following the week the topics in question were discussed.

Weekly Synopses of the
Arguments in the Dialogues [pre-discussion]

The weeks in which we read dialogues (those of Plato and one of Augustine’s),
there will be a pre-session as well as a post-session written assignment.
Before we discuss a given dialogue, each member of the seminar is to submit
a brief but lucid summary of the main arguments of that dialogue. When
we read more than one dialogue in a week, seminarians are free to choose
which dialogue’s argument to summarize (When we read Plato, students are
free to choose any of the dialogues or even Epistle
in place of one of the dialogues for the synopsis.) The summaries
are to be submitted to me electronically at least 24 hours before the session
in which our discussion begins.

Final Paper



for the Weekly writing assignments.

One of the purposes of the dual writing assignment is to underscore
experientially the difference between an exegesis and a critical analysis.
I also hoped, moreover, that writing the prediscussion synopses would instill
a sense of the importance of reading these texts for what they say. This
kind of close (perhaps „docile“) reading of a text is seldom encouraged
in modern literary studies, and often neglected or even discounted in certain
„critical theory“ circles. I am not taking sides on this issue. I don’t
think it’s an issue. What occurs in the poststructuralist debates on contemporary
textual practices in no way invalidates the exegetical and philological
research and interpretation (in its modest sense) of archaic texts. These
are not mutually exclusive intellectual or political camps, nor is there
any basis for polarizing them. I am merely claiming that students should
be exposed to all modes of inquiry and reading. Furthermore, when approaching
textual traditions so distant from our own, to engage contemporary critical
readings without a basis in the historico-cultural, linguistic, and other
contexts would be a self-impoverishing act of arrogance. Such context and
bearings requires precisely the kinds of attention that exegesis exercises.

The synopsis assignment is not merely a component of the seminar as
I envisioned it, but is instrumental in the way I envisioned the degrees
of engagement the seminar might elicit. For an explanation click HERE.


Prehistory.To the Prehistory
of the „Histories of Meaning“

Metapaidia. To the Metaindex
of annotated resources for cyberclassicists.

Eikasia. Envisioning the Course.


Ethos. Envisioning the Engagement


The Syllabus.

Critical Conditions. On the conversation.

How do you say
’nephropathy‘ in Bulgarian? – Netcasting in Daily Life

This is a chapter from my book College
Web Resources Directory
. I post it here because it
details how to do versatile and time-saving searches on the Internet for
research in the humanities and other disciplines. Illustrated with heart
warming true stories
of the virtual life.


1998-1999 CopyrightÝ

Earl Jackson,




andÝ Ý Ý