"To begin with, appropriation is dialectically linked to the distanciation characteristic of writing. Distanciation is not abolished by appropriation but is rather the counterpart of it. Thanks to distanciation by writing, appropriation no longer has any trace of affective affinity with the intention of an author. Appropriation is quite the contrary of contemporaneousness and congeniality: it is understanding at and through distance.
In the second place, appropriation is dialectically linked to the objectification characteristic of the work. It is mediated by all the structural objectifications of the text; insofar as appropriation does not respond to the author, it responds to the sense. Perhaps it is at this level that the mediation effected by the text can be best understood. In contrast to the tradition of the cogito and to the pretension of the subject to know itself by immediate intuition, it must be said that we understand ourselves only by the long detour of the signs of humanity deposited in cultural works. What would we know of love and hate, of moral feelings, and, in general, of all that we call the self if these had not been brought to language and articulated by literature? Thus what seems the most contrary to subjectivity, and what structural analysis discloses as the texture of the text, is the very medium within which we can understand ourselves.
Above all, the vis-á-vis of appropriation is what Gadamer calls 'the matter of the text' and what I call here 'the world of the work.' Ultimately, what I appropriate is a proposed world. The latter is not behind the text, as a hidden intention would be, but in front of it, as that which the work unfolds, discovers, reveals. Henceforth, to understand is to understand oneself in front of the text. It is not a question of imposing upon the text our infinite capacity for understanding, but of exposing ourselves to the text and receiving from it an enlarged self, which would be the proposed existence corresponding in the most suitable way to the world proposed. So understanding is quite different from a constitution of which the subject would possess the key. In this respect, it would be more correct to say that the self is constituted by the 'matter' of the text" (Ricoeur 1991:87-88).
1991 From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II. Kathleen Blamey and John B. Thompson, trans. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
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