, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 345-348
Date: 11 Mar 2010

Open secrets: reading and understanding

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This scholarly and engaging text focuses on John Milton’s poetry and prose as the locus of a hermeneutic model of the interpretation of meaning which is radically different from modern scientific understandings of interpretation as a matter of discovery or the uncovering of knowledge. Milton’s reader is seen as invited to recognise and empowered to understand his texts in a process which violates the commonsense opposition between intention and expression. The standard that Adam articulates in Paradise Lost is “the standard of intention maintained in unity with expression, inwardness with outwardness” (p. 91).

Fleming criticises both strong intentionalism and the exclusion of strong intentionalism as interpretative principles; the former because it undermines the stability it appears to promise and the latter because it cannot overcome the prima facie plausibility of the intentionalist impulse. While trivial expressions might be usefully analysed on a strong intentionalist model, “the m ...