Text as Sliding Signifier

Correcting the Slippage between Textuality and Narrativity in Ricoeur’s Middle Period

in Research in Phenomenology
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In the 1980s Ricoeur conceptualized metaphoricity and narrativity as twin ends of a discursive field governed by the productive imagination. A decade earlier Ricoeur was working at a significantly different proposition. He wanted to establish a parallel, in fact a strong homology, between metaphor and text. In both cases Ricoeur articulated a complex criteriology to establish the parallelism between the terms. Should we regard the earlier parallel as a first and less precise version of the later? a distinct thesis? a reconcilable claim? a category error? Was the rejection and return an evolution, a clarification, or simply a different topic? The thesis of this close reading of Ricoeur’s middle period writings on metaphor is that the shift of analogical relations is actually a migration from the first to the second homology, and that the second homology is the correct one.

Text as Sliding Signifier

Correcting the Slippage between Textuality and Narrativity in Ricoeur’s Middle Period

in Research in Phenomenology




Paul RicoeurLa Métaphore vive (Paris: Seuil1975) translated by Robert Czerny as The Rule of Metaphor (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1975) hereafter rm followed by translation page numbers.


Paul Ricoeur“La Métaphore et le Problème Central de l’Herméneutique,” Revue Philosophique de Louvain 70 no. 5 (1972): 93–112 (hereafter mch); translated by David Pellauer as “Metaphor and the Main Problem of Hermeneutics” in Paul Ricoeur A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination ed. Mario J. Valdés (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1991) 303–19; here 305 (cited hereafter as rr). A recent anthology of translations of Ricoeur’s essays on hermeneutics Ricoeur Hermeneutics: Writings and Lectures trans. David Pellauer vol. 2 (Cambridge uk: Polity Press 2013) once again includes this essay even though it is the one essay in the collection that is widely available in other major anthologies indicating something of its respected place in the Ricoeur canon.


Monroe BeardsleyAesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (New York: Harcourt, Brace1958) 144.


Paul Ricoeur“The Task of Hermeneutics,” in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciencesed. John B. Thompson (Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press 1981) 58 hereafter hhs.


Paul Ricoeur“The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text,” in From Text to Action (Evanston il: Northwestern University Press 1991) 144–67; hereafter cited as fta followed by page. (Ironically he does not give us this wonderful definition of “text” in the essay “What Is a Text?” in fta 105–24 but rather here.)


RicoeurInterpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning78. The original lectures and the book itself were published in English. The original French as far as I have been able to ascertain is not extant.


Ricoeur“Reply to Mario J. Valdes,” in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeured. Lewis E. Hahn (Chicago: Open Court1995) 281–82.


Ricoeur“Reply to Mario J. Valdes”281.


Paul RicoeurDe l’Interprétation: Essai sur Freud (Paris: Seuil1965) hereafter di followed by page.

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