Microexegesis (MXG 101-403)

Any writing of high intellectual merit will present some difficulties to understanding. In many cases the reader can nevertheless read the whole work with substantial understanding in spite of lingering questions regarding the author’s intent in certain portions of the text. Other works, however, for various reasons pose so many challenges to understanding that the reader is overwhelmed with unresolved questions as to what the author is saying. This latter kind of work is studied in this course.

“Exegesis” is the Greek word meaning “interpretation”; to exegete a text means to study it carefully in order to make good sense of it. “Microexegesis” is word-by-word analysis of a text. This course teaches students the art of using contextual and lexical clues to make sense of particularly inscrutable texts and to discern the meaning their authors intended. Under the guidance of a tutor, students progress through a text sentence by sentence, discussing the interpretive questions and reaching a measure of resolution before proceeding. Students will find the skills and discipline learned in this course helpful when trying to understand any difficult text.

In their first three years, students will examine a variety of works from various genres. In the past, for example, students have studied Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and Categories, Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript, the Gospel of John and other Bible passages, and English poetry. In the fourth year, the text will be the Bible, and the passages will be chosen to highlight various hermeneutical issues. All works are chosen for the exegetical challenges they pose, but they are also chosen because their authors, for the most part, have had a profound influence on the world. Aristotle, Kierkegaard, Kant, and the authors of the Bible, are among the penetrating thinkers that Gutenberg students have examined profitably in Microexegesis.