PROFANITY, DISGUST, AND DANGEROUS LITERATURE: AHERMENEUTICAL ANALYSIS OF THE CATCHER IN THE RYE AND THECHOCOLATE WARA DissertationbyMYCHELLE HADLEY SMITHSubmitted to the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies ofTexas A&M Universityin partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree ofDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYChair of Committee,Committee Members,Head of Department,Patrick SlatteryLynn M. BurlbawCathleen C. LovingTheodore GeorgeYeping LiAugust 2015Major Subject: Curriculum and InstructionCopyright 2015 Mychelle Hadley Smith

ABSTRACTVarying levels and types of colloquial language are considered inappropriate,especially profanity. Obscene language is one aspect applied to the R-rating for moviesand television shows. Profanity also plays a large role as a deterrent in books;consequently, profanity is a popular motive for banning books in schools and libraries.What if instead of turning away from profanity, readers could analyze and understandthe reasons and meaning behind the profane words?Hermeneutics, used as a philosophical lens, allows for deeper understanding oftextual language. If interpreted through educational and historical context with the aid ofhermeneutics, profanity becomes a useful literary element within the text. Rather thanbanning books from high school curricula, educators and students can interpret themeaning and underlying purpose of profanity in literature. This study utilizeshermeneutics as a lens for understanding the role of profanity in two young adult novels:The Catcher in the Rye and The Chocolate War. Profanity usage in both novels isindicative of the realistic nature of the characters’ lives and struggles.Students need to know that their interpretation—of a text, of the world, ofthemselves—is important. The reader-response approach to literary criticism allows foran intimate relationship to develop between the reader and the object of interpretation—in this case the text. Analysis and discussion of the experiences that human beings haveand our ability to share these experiences through language and fusions of horizons inGadamer’s hermeneutics allows for true education—ensuring understanding can takeplace.ii

DEDICATIONTo my mother and father, Patricia and Scott.iii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSI would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Patrick Slattery for his guidance asa mentor and his continued support to pursue the dangerous and provocative. I wouldalso like to thank my committee members, Dr. Loving, Dr. Burlbaw, and Dr. George fortheir guidance and support throughout the course of this philosophical experience.I would especially like to thank my parents for their continued support andencouragement. I extend my gratitude to my husband, Travis, for his motivation andencouragement. Lastly, I extend a special thanks to Holden Caulfield and Jerry Renault.iv

TABLE OF CONTENTSPageABSTRACT . . iiDEDICATION . . iiiACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . .ivTABLE OF CONTENTS . . . . vLIST OF FIGURES . . . . .viiLIST OF TABLES . . . viiiCHAPTER I INTRODUCTION . . . . 1Problem Statement . . . . . . 2Theoretical Framework . . . . 3Research Questions . . . 4Research Objectives . . . . . 5Significance of the Study . 6Plan for the Dissertation . . . . 6CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW . . . . 8Derrida’s Deconstruction . 9Introduction to Hermeneutics. . . 12Biblical Hermeneutics . 14Conservative Philosophical Hermeneutics: Schleiermacher . . 16Gadamer’s Hermeneutics . 19Introduction to Disgust . . . 25Moralization of Disgust . . . 26Disgust and Society . . . 30Disgust and Food . . . 34Introduction of the Fifth Sense: Hearing . 35Profanity: Elicitor of Disgust . 36Word Aversion . . . . 42Literary Analysis: Reader-response Criticism. . . . 45Curriculum Theory . 50Censorship by Banning Books . . . 59The Catcher in the Rye . 71The Chocolate War . 72v

PageLiterature Review Conclusion 75CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY. . . . 76Introduction . . 76Research Perspective . 76Research Design . 77Research Questions . . 78Focus . . 79Key Facilitator for Creating Experiences . . 80Subjectivity. . . 80Referential Adequacy and Structural Corroboration . 80CHAPTER IV EXPERIENCES . . 82Introduction . . 82Methodology Summary . . . 82Novel 1: The Catcher in the Rye . . . 83Novel 2: The Chocolate War . . . . . . 99CHAPTER V DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS . . . 121Introduction . . . .121Research Question One . . .121Research Question Two . . 127Research Question Three . . 137Limitations . . 142Future Research . . . 143Conclusion . . 146REFERENCES . . . . 150vi

LIST OF FIGURESPageFigure 1Conceptual Framework . . . 9Figure 2Progression of Hermeneutics Leading to Gadamer . . 20Figure 3Book Challenges by Reason 1990-2009 . 68Figure 4Initiators of Book Challenges 1990-2009 . . . 69Figure 5Book Challenges by Institution from 1990-2009 . . 70Figure 6Profanity Usage in The Catcher in the Rye . . . . 89Figure 7Profanity Usage in The Chocolate War . . 109vii

LIST OF TABLESPageTable 1Frequency of Profane Words in The Catcher in the Rye . 88Table 2Frequency of Profane Words in The Chocolate War . . .108viii

CHAPTER IINTRODUCTIONAs a first year high school teacher in 2009-2010, I was given the task of selectingnovels for my ninth and eleventh grade students to read. I wanted to select novels thatthe students could relate to, not just read about from a distance. I selected from a smallvariety of book titles that were already ordered and neatly organized on my classroomshelves. As the year progressed, parents came forth claiming that the material was notacceptable due to the profanity and mature content in the books. Literature such as OfMice and Men, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and The Crucible was suddenlyunder attack. During my first year of teaching, I began my quest to better understandcensorship such as banning books. This quest led me to investigate profanity’s role incurriculum. While taking a Curriculum Theory course during my Master’s Degree study,I was introduced to philosophical hermeneutics in Patrick Slattery’s (2006) textbook,Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era. Two years later in my doctoral degreecoursework, my interest in hermeneutics developed further in the Philosophy ofEducation course. I decided to create a hermeneutical analysis of colloquial language,specifically profanity, and apply this analysis to discuss high school reading curriculum.Specifically, I was concerned with the two novels, The Catcher in the Rye and TheChocolate War. Writings, studies, and research involving hermeneutics are plentiful, asis material on profanity; however, the two have not yet been joined in the realm ofeducational philosophy research. The problem I would like to solve is: What role does1

profanity have in high school English reading curriculum and how can philosophicalhermeneutics be applied to interpret profanity?Problem StatementVarying levels and types of colloquial language are considered inappropriate,especially profanity. Obscene language is one aspect applied to the R-rating for moviesand television shows. Profanity also plays a large role as a deterrent in books. Profanityis a popular motive for banning books in schools and libraries. Of the 5,099 booksbanned since 2000, 1,291 books were banned due to offensive language (FrequentlyChallenged Books of the 21st Century, 2014). What are students missing due to therejection of over 5,000 books? Is profanity limiting the reading possibilities for highschool students due to schools deeming the literature obscene?What if instead of turning away from profanity, readers could analyze andunderstand the reasons and meaning behind the profane words? Hermeneutics, used as aphilosophical lens, allows for deeper understanding of textual language. Understandingallows the “layers of tradition, prejudice, and conscious evasion” to be set free (Slattery,p. 129, 2006). By analyzing the image of profanity, I am able to examine the influencesof profanity in literature on a philosophical level. Hermeneutics will be used as amethodological tool for “recovering meaning that is essential to understanding”(Malpas, 2013).If interpreted through educational and historical context with the aid ofhermeneutics, profanity becomes a useful literary element within the text. Rather than2

banning books from high school curricula, educators and students can interpret themeaning and underlying purpose of profanity in literature. By viewing profanity as anelement rather than a deterrent, a new realm of literary analysis has been introduced. Theuse of contextual hermeneutics was used to recognize “social and historical conditions”that play a role in the use and understanding of profanity (Slattery, p. 131, 2006).Philosophical hermeneutics allows educators to discover what is missing when booksare banned.Theoretical FrameworkI have identified two theories that will frame my hermeneutical analysis ofprofanity. The first theory is Hans George Gadamer’s theory of philosophicalhermeneutics. This theory will be applied to the hermeneutic methodology. Gadamer’s(1976) theory of hermeneutics closely relates to Martin Heidegger’s (1962) theories ofhermeneutics. Gadamer (1976) claims “hermeneutics reaches into all the contexts thatdetermine and condition the linguisticality of the human experience of the world”(Gadamer, p. 19). Written word relates language and being which in turn leads torepresenting the human experience. “Gadamer also takes issue directly with [the] viewof prejudice and the negative connotations often associated with the notion, arguing that,rather than closing us off, our prejudices are themselves what open us up to what is to beunderstood” (Malpas, 2013). Our prejudices with profanity can allow for deeperunderstanding. In order to understand a text, the reader must accept that readers andtexts exist in the same fluid world. The meaning of understanding will always be relative3

to the reader.The second theory I will use to shape my hermeneutical analysis of profanity isthe theory of reader-response criticism (1974). This theory will be used to shape themeaning of literary criticism in regards to the hermeneutic analysis. Reader-responsetheory is shaped by two beliefs:1) that the role of the reader cannot be omitted from our understanding ofliterature and 2) that readers do not passively consume the meaning presented tothem by an objective literary text; rather they actively make the meaning theyfind in literature. (Tyson, 1999, p.154)Reader-response theory provides explanation for how students can interact with textsincluding profanity. Based on this theory, one set meaning for profanity does not exist;each reader creates their own meaning when he or she relates with the text.Research QuestionsThe first research question guiding this philosophical study relates to themethodological choice of using philosophical hermeneutics as a vehicle for analysis.RQ 1: How can Gadamer’s hermeneutics be used to understand the use ofprofanity in literature?By using philosophical hermeneutics, the focus of the study revolves around interpretingand understanding profanity in The Chocolate War and The Catcher in the Rye.The second research question guiding this philosophical study deals withprofanity’s purpose in literature.4

RQ 2: What role does profanity play in the novels The Chocolate War and TheCatcher in the Rye?Both novels, The Chocolate War and The Catcher in the Rye, are equally popular andcontroversial for their use of obscene language, which some people may view asunsuitable for the intended readership. I was first motivated to research the roleprofanity plays in literature when I was teaching high school English. I wondered howsporadic usage of certain words could deter parents from entire novels that containedmeaningful content for adolescent readers.The third research question used in this philosophical study focuses on the use ofGadamer’s approach and its effect on schools.RQ 3: What educational insights emerge from self-understanding and Gadamer'shermeneutics?This question focuses on understanding how utilizing a philosophical approach centeredon Gadamer’s hermeneutics can affect schools.Research ObjectivesThe first objective of this dissertation was to uncover the meaning of profanity inThe Chocolate War and Catcher in the Rye. These two novels are popularly banned byschools, parents, and communities for their use of profanity. I used hermeneutics tofurther analyze the role of profanity and to gain insight into the effect profanity has onthe novels.The second objective of this dissertation was to employ the understanding of the5

role profanity plays in The Chocolate War and The Catcher in the Rye to create anadditional level of literary analysis. By understanding the role profanity plays in the twonovels, The Chocolate War and Catcher in the Rye, further research can be completed tocompare the role profanity plays in other novels. Gaining a better understanding ofprofanity’s role and purpose in literature can aid teachers by introducing a new level ofliterary analysis to use in their classrooms.This third objective of this dissertation was to gain insight into battling thestandardization of education with the help of hermeneutics. The role of hermeneutics inthe classroom was examined.Significance of the StudyBooks are under attack in United States’ libraries, schools, and communitiesevery day. This project is significant due to the integration of philosophy, education, andliterature. Gaining a better understanding of the role profanity plays in popular andclassic literature will allow teachers to better handle the teaching of such books within aclassroom. This study aims to bring a philosophical lens to the use of profanity in schoolliterature.Plan for the DissertationThe dissertation consists of five chapters, the first of which serves as anintroduction to the project and rationale behind the study. The problem statement isincluded as well as personal background information that grounds the study.6

Chapter II serves as a review of relevant literature. Topics in the literature reviewinclude: Derrida’s deconstruction, hermeneutics, disgust, profanity, word aversion,literary analysis, reader-response criticism, curriculum theory, book banning, the novelThe Catcher in the Rye, and the novel The Chocolate War.Chapter III details the project methodology and plan for analysis. Theorganization and design of the study will be explained in this chapter.Chapter IV presents the experiences of the philosophical analysis. Responses tothe three research questions are supplied. Both novels are discussed in this chapter.Chapter V provides discussion of the experiences. The summary of discoveries ispresented in a narrative fashion employing autobiographical techniques to relate theresearcher to the research. Connections to schools are made here. Limitations of thestudy are discussed, and future implications for research are presented.7

CHAPTER IILITERATURE REVIEWThis study is a multi-disciplinary study including the fields of education, Englishliterature, and philosophy. Due to the extensive scope of the research, several topicsmust be examined in order to uncover previous research which will contextualize thestudy. In order to uncover the meaning of profanity in literature, the topics of profanity,censorship by banning books, and reader-response literary criticism must be examined.In order to employ the understanding of the role profanity plays, the topics ofhermeneutics, deconstruction, disgust, and word aversion must be examined. Theliterature review will begin with the methodological topics pertaining to hermeneuticsand will then progress to topics of disgust, censorship by banning books, and the twonovels, The Catcher in the Rye and The Chocolate War. The conceptual frameworkhighlights the structure of Chapter II in Figure 1.8

Figure 1. Conceptual Framework.Derrida’s DeconstructionHermeneutics situates itself in the middle of an analytical spectrum with criticaltheory on the left and deconstruction on the right. Critical theory, on the left, focuses onhuman emancipation (Bohman, 2013). Deconstruction, on the right, seeks to find justicethrough various actions such as unearthing hidden assumptions and revealing hiddenprejudices. Hermeneutics is considered the middle-ground view of analyzinginterpretation with its focus on human understanding.On the right side of hermeneutics is Deconstruction. Deconstruction is a schoolof philosophy centered on Jacques Derrida’s theories and philosophies. Deconstruction9

can be used in textual analysis to: problematize, question, interrupt, contextualize,challenge, historicize, expose, engage, trouble, or evoke (Slattery, 2013, p. 3). Thisschool of philosophy is concerned with activities such as unearthing hiddenassumptions, challenging the status quo, and revealing hidden prejudices.Over the course of his career, Derrida has supplied numerous definitions for hisphilosophy of thought known as Deconstruction. Lawlor (2014) has identified two keydefinitions. The first definition claims deconstruction is “a criticism of Platonism, whichis defined by the belief that existence is structured in terms of oppositions (separatesubstances or forms) and that the oppositions are hierarchical, with one side of theopposition being more valuable than the other” (Lawlor, 2014). For Derrida, we canonly understand a word’s meaning if we distinguish it from other words (Tyson, 2006, p.253). Two phases that comprise this process of criticizing Platonism involve reversingthe hierarchies to place the inferior term in the position to be the original source ofopposition (Lawlor, 2014). Platonistic hierarchies that are criticized in Deconstructioninclude: the hierarchies between the invisible or intelligible and the visible or sensible;between essence and appearance; between the soul and body; between living memoryand rote memory; between mnēmē and hypomnēsis; between voice and writing; betweenfinally good and evil (Lawlor, 2014).The second definition of Deconstruction includes two sides. The first sideincludes a genealogical aspect of Deconstruction which involves “the history of aconcept or theme” (Lawlor, 2014). The second side of the definition includes a “moreformalistic or structural style of deconstruction, which examines a-historical paradoxes10

or aporias” (Lawlor, 2014). Cornell, Rosenfeld, & Carlson have identified three aporias:“the epoche of the rule” (p. 22-23); “the ghost of the undecidable” (p. 24-26); and “theurgency that obstructs the horizon of knowledge” (p. 26-28). The first aporia focuses onrules. A key component of rules, for Derrida, is the idea of justice. One of the mostcommon dictums in ethical or political thought is that to be just or unjust. In order toexercise justice, “one must be free and responsible for one's actions and decisions”(Lawlor, 2014). This freedom involves the decision to not only follow laws but also tomake new judgments regarding the established laws. A free decision aimed at justice isboth regulated and unregulated (Lawlor, 2014). Epoche in the first aporia refers todestruction, conservation, and suspension of a law (Lawlor, 2014). “Each case is other,each decision is different and requires an absolutely unique interpretation which noexisting coded rule can or ought to guarantee” (Lawlor, 2014). The second aporiainvolves the making of decisions that begin with reading, interpreting, or calculating(Lawlor, 2014). For Derrida, a decision is not reached easily. To make a decision, onemust experience undecidability (Lawlor, 2014). This undecidability involves therealization “that the case, being unique and singular, does not fit the established codesand therefore a decision about it seems to be impossible,” and plays a role indeconstructing texts (Lawlor, 2014). The realization of the impossibility of the decision,or the text, allows one to unearth new possibilities about a decision or text.The undecidable, for Derrida, is not mere oscillation between two significations;it is the experience of what, though foreign to the calculable and the rule, is stillobligated. We are obligated – this is a kind of duty—to give oneself up to the11

impossible decision, while taking account of rules and law. (Lawlor, 2014)The third aporia focuses on urgency and its effects on decision-making. Derridaemphasizes the Greek etymology of the word “horizon” as both the opening as well asthe limit (Lawlor, 2014). This differs from Gadamer’s use of the word horizon meaninga person’s prejudices and preconceptions. Justice requires urgency for it does not wait;“a just decision is always required immediately” (Lawlor, 2014). The moment ofdecision is “the moment of madness, acting in the night of non-knowledge and non-rule”(Lawlor, 2014).Two main purposes for choosing to deconstruct a text include: (1) to reveal thetext’s undecidability and/or (2) to reveal the complex operations of the ideologies ofwhich the text is constructed” (Tyson, 2006, p. 259). Deconstruction was not chosen asthe philosophical method for this dissertation because the goal is not to problematize orquestion the use of profanity in literature. The texts under consideration are notpresenting students with an urgency for justice. Instead, the goal of this dissertation is toemploy hermeneutics to understand the reading experience between text and readerwhen students encounter literature with profanity.Introduction to HermeneuticsHumans communicate with each other through speech, text, and body language.Language is the focus of all human communication. How the communication isperceived and interpreted varies based on the audience. “Hermeneutic understanding isin fact more a primordial way to comprehend the things around us, and much unlike12

empirical knowledge that has been validated, hermeneutic understanding is incomplete,limited, and highly ambiguous at times” (Magrini, 2014, p. 88).Understanding the role language plays in granting us access to being is a focus ofphilosophers. How can humans understand their relation to being in the world? In whatways can language grant humans access to understanding being? Hermeneutics can beused to better understand being in regard to textual communication. A general definitionof hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation (Slattery, 2013). Throughinterpretation, one gains understanding. The use of the word science in the definition forhermeneutics is a topic for debate. Can an experience and conversation with a text beconsidered a science? Textual interpretation and the struggle for understanding appear inthe study of science when scientists interpret science texts (Kuhn, 1962, p. 1).“Philosophical hermeneutics resists the desire for finality, completeness, and control. Itrenounces the lust to reduce the power of language to an instrumental function andrecovers the view of life as inherently problematic, mysterious, question-worthy, anddifficult” (Magrini, 2014, p. 89).Slattery, Krasny, and O’Malley (2007) have divided the history of hermeneuticsinto six categories: traditional theological hermeneutics, conservative philosophicalhermeneutics, contextual hermeneutics, reflective hermeneutics, post-structuralhermeneutics, and critical hermeneutics. A seventh category, dialogic hermeneutics, issuggested (Slattery et al. 2007). Some hermeneutists, those in the traditional theologicaland conservative philosophical categories, believe in a methodological-focusedhermeneutics that strives to discover an objective meaning. I am not interested in using13

hermeneutics to discover an objective meaning; instead, I am concerned with theexperiences that take place while reading literature containing profanity. The history ofhermeneutics is used as a foundation here for better understanding the use of Gadamer’sphilosophical hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics and conservative philosophicalhermeneutics will be examined to better situate Gadamer’s philosophies.Biblical HermeneuticsThe term hermeneutics was first associated with biblical analysis during theMiddle Ages and Renaissance (Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). Traditional theologicalhermeneutics is based on “addressing the understanding of religious intuitions”(Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). Dating back to ancient philosophy as early as 400 C.E.,hermeneutical interpretation was used by Plato and Aristotle to differentiate betweenreligious knowledge and wisdom (Dilthey, 1996; Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). During thebiblical analysis stage of hermeneutic history, “the allegorical method was employed tounderstand linguistic and grammatical components of scriptural texts in order toappropriate this meaning within the wider spiritual framework of the time” (Slattery etal., 2007). Being in the world related to the connections between readers and the Bible aswell as theological texts. Texts were interpreted to find the Biblical and theologicalmeanings. The rise of biblical hermeneutics arose out of the attack launched by theCouncil of Trent on the new Protestant principle of scripture (Dilthey, 1996, p. 34). Onedecision of the Council of Trent was to consider scripture and tradition “as equal forfaith” (p. 34). This decision marked a combination of text and lived and believed14

experiences. Considering the text as equivalent in faith as the traditions of religionmeant the two were to be interpreted as equal.The lived experience of the Reformation [occupied] a middle ground betweenthe principle of Scripture proper and the material principle of the Reformation: Itis an experience that consists both of comprehending and living through the innercoherence of Scripture, a coherence than enlivens all of its separate parts.(Dilthey, 1996, p. 37)As part of the ruling, a rule was given stating that every passage must be placed in “itstotal Scriptural context and clarified by parallels” (Dilthey, 1996, p. 40). Using thismethod required readers of the Scripture to interpret the meaning based on Biblicalcontext.Philo of Alexandria reflected on the “allegorical meaning of the Old Testament”and anticipated the idea that “the literal meaning of a text may conceal a deeper nonliteral meaning that may only be uncovered through systematic interpretatory work”(Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). This in turn amalgamated the Jewish and Greekhermeneutical traditions (Slattery, 2013). Augustine was the first to claim that“interpretation of Scripture involves a deeper, existential level of self-understanding”(Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). Augustine’s philosophy included the idea of the ‘sign’points to the ‘thing’ (Slattery et al., 2007, p. 543). Over a century later, Origenesclaimed, “Scripture has three levels of meaning, corresponding to the triangle of body,soul, and spirit, each of which reflects a progressively more advanced stage of religiousunderstanding” (Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). Origenes’ emphasis on the need for text15

interpretation helped provide “access and understanding for every interpreter of sacredwritings” (Slattery et al., 2007, p. 543). Thomas Aquinas questioned “the authenticity oftexts by comparing them to the existing Aristotelian corpus, thus anticipating a criticalphilological procedure that would later emerge as a crucial aspect of FriedrichSchleiermacher's notion of grammatical interpretation” (Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009).Aquinas is now considered the “definitive authority on textual interpretation” (Slatteryet al., 2007).During the traditional theological stage of hermeneutic history, the Scripturefound in the Bible was the predominant method for relating to being. Religiousinterpreters could develop ontological relations with the text by focusing on the word ofGod. During this time, hermeneutics did not focus on poetry and literature as much asmodern hermeneutics.Conservative Philosophical Hermeneutics: SchleiermacherThe goal of conservative philosophical hermeneutics is “to reproduce themeaning or intention of the text” (Slattery, 2013, p. 136). Two key philosophical figuresin the conservative philosophical realm of hermeneutics are Wilhelm Dilthey andFriedrich Schleiermacher. Dilthey claimed “understanding and interpretation is themethod used throughout the human sciences” to bring together function and truth(Dilthey, 1985, p.152). Schleiermacher, the first to “pull together the intellectualcurrents of the time so as to articulate a coherent conception of a universalhermeneutics,” is considered the leading scholar in this category of hermeneutics16

(Ramberg & Gjesdal, 2009). For Schleiermacher, hermeneutics moves beyond relatingto one particular text and relates to “linguistic meaning in general” (Ramberg & Gjesdal,2009). General hermeneutics according to Schleiermacher focuses on two

banning books from high school curricula, educators and students can interpret the meaning and underlying purpose of profanity in literature. This study utilizes hermeneutics as a lens for understanding the role of profanity in two young adult novels: The Catcher in the Rye