Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) by Frank Kermode, from Harvard University Press.
This volume of Kermode’s Norton Lectures addresses “some of the forces that make interpretation necessary and virtually impossible, and some of the constraints under which it is carried on.” (125) Although he uses various literary instances (notably Henry Green’s Party Going, Joyce’s Ulysses, and Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49), his central and recurrent case study is the gospel of Mark.
Kermode treats various important hermeneutic dilemmas, such as the determining influence of institutional readings, the difficulty in delineating between history and fiction, the chicken-and-egg relationship between plot and character, and the difference between meaning and truth. First and foremost, though, he explores the necessity of both esoteric and exoteric interpretation. He suggests that the notion of esoteric sense in text may be especially pervasive in Western literature due to the influence of the gospels.
This is a short volume, but one worth savoring by anyone whose sense of the real, the sacred, or the beautiful is invested in a text. And it communicates important ideas about the nature of secrecy and its effects. [via]
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