Take and Read: Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning

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The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company


How does one who has been avidly reading books of every variety for more than half a century, even if limiting the choice to books read as an adult in an academic and/or ministerial context, select one as the "most important book I ever read"? Obviously, one has to add some further qualifiers, so I refined the question by asking myself what book (besides the Bible) is related most significantly to the most -- quantitatively and qualitatively -- significant aspects of my life? Surprisingly, one book immediately "leaped out" of the stack, namely, Paul Ricoeur's Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning, a collection of lectures which Ricoeur delivered in 1973 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, published in 1976. Coincidentally, 1976 was the very year I began my professional life as a theologian at the Jesuit School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., having received my doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome just a month before, in December 1975.