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Description - Hermes' Dilemma and Hamlet's Desire by Vincent Crapanzano

Vincent Crapanzano here focuses his critical powers upon the interpretive and dialogic strategies of his own culture. In essays that question how the human sciences, particularly anthropology and psychoanalysis, articulate their fields of study, Crapanzano addresses the enormous problem of describing the self in both its individual and collective projections. Treating subjects as diverse as Roman carnivals and Balinese cockfights, circumcision, dreaming, and spirit possession in Morocco, transference in psychoanalysis, self-characterization in teenage girls' gossip, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and Jane Austen's "Emma", dialogue models in hermeneutics, and semantic vertigo in Hamlet's Elsinore, these essays look critically at the inner workings of interpretation in the human sciences and literary study. In modern Western culture's attempts to interpret and communicate the nature of other cultures, Crapanzano finds a crippling crisis in representation. He shows how the quest for knowledge of "exotic" and "primitve" people is often confused with an unexamined need for self-definition, and he sets forth the resulting interpretive paradoxes, particularly the suppression of any awareness of the play of power and desire in such an approach. What is missing from contemporary theories of interpretation is, in Crapanzano's account, a crucial understanding of the role context plays in any act of communication or its representation - in interpretation itself. Although he makes use of theories in hermeneutics and psychoanalysis, Crapanzano's method is ethnographic. By looking at contemporary theories as an ethnologist might view the theories of the people he studies, he aims to invert their processes, and thus to restore a sense of naturalness to our experience of self, dialogue, and cultural exchange.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674389816
ISBN-10: 0674389816
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 152mm x 21mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Feb-1992
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Vincent Crapanzano

Vincent Crapanzano is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Comparative Literature at the City University of New York and author of, among other works, The Hamadsha, Tuhami: A Portrait of a Moroccan, and Waiting: The Whites of South Africa.

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