Key Terms and Concepts from E. D. Hirsch's Revision of New Criticism

A Work's "Meaning" vs. its "Significance": "The object of interpretation is textual meaning in and for itself and may be called the meaning of the text.  The object of criticism, on the other hand, is that meaning in its bearing on something else (standards of value, present concerns, etc.), and this object may therefore may be called the significance of the text" (1393).  [Hirsch contends this  "meaning" never changes over time, whereas "significance" always does--compare Reader-Response theory's distinction between "determinate" and "indeterminate" meaning, or "efferent" vs. "aesthetic" meaning.]

"sharable meaning" (1397)  (See criterion 1 below.) "the linguistic horizon of a word" (1397-99) (See criterion 2 below.)
readers' sense of "genre" as a source of "general horizon[s] for meaning" and "a sense of the whole [work]" and its typical parts (1399)  (See criterion 3 below) "the text's horizon . . . the typical meanings of the author's mental and experiential world" (1399)  (See criterion 4 below.)

Hirsch's Four Criteria of Possible Readings (1406)

1)  "legitimacy: the reading must be permissible within the public norms of the langue [Saussure's term for the language as a system] in which the text was composed." 2)  "correspondence: the reading must account for each linguistic component in the text.  Whenever a reading arbitrarily ignores linguistic components or inadequately accounts for them, the reading may be presumed improbable." 
3)  "generic appropriateness: if the text follows the conventions of the scientific essay, for example, it is inappropriate to construe the kind of allusive meaning found in casual conversation." 4)  "plausibility or coherence.  The three preliminary norms usually permit several readings, and this is by definition the case when a text is problematical.  Faced with alternatives, the interpreter chooses the reading which best meets the criterion of coherence"

The Interpreter's Search for the "logic" of the "speaking subject" of the work (vs. its "author")

"The interpreter's primary task is to reproduce in himself the author's 'logic,' his attitudes, his cultural givens, in short, his world.  . . . the imaginative reconstruction of the speaking subject.  The speaking subject is not, however, identical with the subjectivity to the author as an actual historical person; it corresponds, rather, to a very limited and special aspect of the author's total subjectivity; it is, so to speak, that 'part' of the author which specifies or determines verbal meaning" (1410).