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Hermeneutics: An Introduction DLV270

Course description for study year 2020-2021. Please note that changes may occur.

Course code


Credits (ECTS)


Semester tution start


Number of semesters


Exam semester


Language of instruction


Offered by

Faculty of Arts and Education, Faculty of Arts and Education

Learning outcome


The student will gain knowledge of:

  • The intellectual and cultural foundations of the different varieties of hermeneutics.
  • The different ways of conceiving human meaning and the methods deployed by each to uncover and convey it.The circular character of understanding; in particular, the negotiation between

authorial intention, the meaning of the text itself, and our own traditions, concerns and commitments as interpreters.

  • The ethical challenges inherent to the different varieties of interpretation, as well as their social and political consequences.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Articulate their research methodologies by reference to the different varieties of interpretation.
  • Situate their research methodologies within deeper historical structures of humanities and social sciences practice.
  • Critically evaluate the ethical, social and political consequences of adopting any one methodological approach, including their own.
  • Engage in academic discourse regarding the nature, purposes and procedures of humanistic inquiry.


General competence

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Reflect critically on methodological conventions found in different fields of the humanities and social sciences.

Identify and evaluate intellectual, cultural, ethical and political presuppositions behind different methodological approaches in the humanities and social sciences.


This course offers an introduction to the methodology of interpretation known as hermeneutics. It examines the different varieties of hermeneutics that have existed through time as well as the methods developed in each variety for accessing, evaluating and expressing human meaning. The course begins with the modern-day origins of hermeneutics in the sola scriptura of the Protestant Reformation before tracing its development in nineteenth-century German romanticism and the historically and epistemologically minded methodological hermeneutics of Ast, Schleiermacher and Dilthey. The course then turns attention to the twentieth-century ontological, philosophical and critical hermeneutics of Heidegger, Gadamer and Ricœur, as well as the debates in which they were engaged with their interlocutors concerning the nature, purposes and procedures of interpretation. Key themes covered include language and meaning, truth and relativism, history and historicity, politics and critique, dialogue and conversation, text and translation, being and metaphysics, self and narrative. In addressing these themes, the course places an emphasis on the links between theory and practice. Throughout each stage of the course, students will be encouraged to relate the theoretical and methodological questions raised in the literature and class discussion to their own doctoral projects.


-Tyson Ashley Retz (Course teacher)

Required prerequisite knowledge
Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Oral presentation and essay 1/1 Pass - Fail

Oral presentation and essay

Coursework requirements
Active participation in lectures and seminars, at least 75% participation.
Course teacher(s)
Course coordinator: Tyson Ashley Retz
Method of work

The course will be held as lectures and seminars with discussions. A detailed timetable will be made available to course participants in advance of the seminar.

English is the language of instruction and assessment.

Open for
This course is for PhD candidates in the Faculty of Arts and Education and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stavanger. PhD candidates in programs at cooperating research institutions may also participate in the course.

Students are required to purchase or gain access to the course text:


Jeff Malpas and Hans-Helmuth Gander (eds), The Routledge Companion to Hermeneutics (London and New York: Routledge, 2015).


Overall reading is roughly 500 pages. 300 pages will be set as compulsory reading for all; the remaining 200 pages will be selected by the student in accordance with his or her specific research objectives. This elective reading will be agreed upon in consultation with the subject teacher prior to the commencement of the course.


Primary texts from key figures in hermeneutics will be supplied and examined in class.