For more than a decade, the Program in Interpretation Theory has been providing Swarthmore College students and faculty with an interdisciplinary forum for exploring the nature and politics of representation. Reaching widely across the disciplines, work done in the minor reflects a longstanding drive to understand the world through the constructs of its interpretive propositions. Students use this course of study to develop a flexible, deeply historicized grasp of critical and cultural theory. They also sharpen their skills in critical reading and intellectual analysis.
All academic disciplines, from anthropology to zoology, involve interpretation. What distinguishes interpretation theory from other departments and programs at Swarthmore is that interpretation itself constitutes the focus of study. Thus, in order for a course to be included in the interpretation theory minor, it must self-consciously and explicitly incorporate the study of hermeneutics in addition to whatever other subject matter may be explored, an epistemological distinction embodied by the relationship between historiography and history. Therefore, rather than treating theory as secondary, the Interpretation Theory program stresses its centrality.
In addition to emphasizing the importance of hermeneutics and related questions of method and representation, the Program in Interpretation Theory is distinguished by its interdisciplinary character. Courses for the minor are drawn from a remarkable range of subject areas , including art history, biology, classics, English literature, film and media studies, French, history, philosophy, political science, physics, psychology, religion, Russian, and sociology/anthropology.