Arguing over Texts: The Rhetoric of Interpretation

ISBN : 9780190677121

Martin Camper
208 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2017
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From the Constitution to the Bible, from literary classics to political sound bites, our modern lives are filled with numerous texts that govern and influence our behavior and beliefs. Whether in the courtrooms of our judiciaries or over our dining room tables, we argue over what these texts mean as we apply them to our lives. Various schools of hermeneutics offer theories of how we generally understand the world around us or how to read certain types of texts to arrive at the correct or best interpretation, but most neglect the argumentative and persuasive nature of every act of interpretation.
In Arguing over Texts, Martin Camper presents a rhetorical method for understanding the types of disagreement people have over the meaning of texts and the lines of argument they use to resolve those disagreements. Camper's fresh approach has its roots in the long forgotten interpretive stases, originally devised by ancient Greek and Roman teachers of rhetoric for inventing courtroom arguments concerning the meaning of legal documents such as wills, laws, and contracts. The interpretive stases identify general, recurring debates over textual meaning and catalogue the lines of reasoning arguers may employ to support their preferred interpretations. Drawing on contemporary research in language, persuasion, and cognition, Camper expands the scope of the interpretive stases to cover textual controversies in virtually any context. To illustrate the interpretive stases' wide range of applicability, Arguing over Texts contains examples of interpretive debates from law, politics, religion, history, and literary criticism.
Arguing over Texts will appeal to anyone who is interested in analyzing and constructing interpretive arguments.


Chapter 1: The Interpretive Stases: A Theory of How People Argue over Texts
Chapter 2: Ambiguity
Chapter 3: Definition
Chapter 4: Letter versus Spirit
Chapter 5: Conflicting Passages
Chapter 6: Assimilation
Chapter 7: Jurisdiction
Chapter 8: Opening, Closing, and Moving through Interpretive Disputes

About the author: 

Martin Camper is Assistant Professor of Writing at Loyola University Maryland, where he teaches courses in rhetoric, writing, argument, and style. He researches and publishes in the history of rhetoric, rhetorical and argumentation theory, the rhetoric of religion, and college writing.

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