Calibrating Study and Learning as Hermeneutic Principles: Greco-Christian Representation, Rabbinic Interpretation, and Chinese Yijing Exegesis

Year: 2019

Author: Zhao, Weili

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In the field of educational philosophy, learning and study have so far been largely theorized as two distinct formations of education. While learning is the predominant episteme and apparatus entrapping the post-20th century neoliberal education along an instrumental and economic logic, study is recently re-invoked as an alternative, radical, oppositional, or “weak” educational formation that disrupts the linear actualization of a pre-determined learning goal (see, Lewis 2013, 2018), releasing education from the reductive “learnification” trap and trope for new openings.

To enrich this scholarship, this paper re-calibrates study and learning as two hermeneutic principles ordering word, text, and meaning, the contours of which can be further explicated by comparing-unpacking the Greco-Christian, Rabbinic, and ancient Chinese traditions of exegesis. My recalibration is provoked by an epistemological flashpoint in interpreting two educational texts (one from present China and the other from the Yijing classics) and unfolds in four steps. First, I re-configure the structural differences that Susan Handelman (1982) identifies to have existed between Greco-Christian and Rabbinic modes of signification along the parameters of learning and study. Second, I delve into the Rabbinic studyof the Talmud as an originary re-source for re-envisioning the contours of studymode of interpretation and as a detouring springboard for me to access and portray the Chinese Yijing exegetical tradition beyond the modern representational learning trap. Third, I explicate the Chinese Yijing exegetical onto-epistemology as an Eastern rhythm of study (see, e.g., Zhao, 2019) that further disrupts the Greco-Christian signs-based representational, visual, and imagistic mode of signification, critiquing and imploding the presumed presence and being that underpins the learning mode of signification. Finally, I return to the two Chinese traditional and present educational texts, re-articulating their meaning making when a learning logic is turned over to a study hermeneutics.

In so doing, this paper not only adds to the generative scholarship of study and learningas two formations of educational life, but also problematizes the rarely explored issue of meaning making grounding educational knowledge (re)production for new openings.


Handelman, S. A. (1982). The Slayers of Moses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Lewis, T.E. 2013. On study: Giorgio Agamben and educational potentiality. New York: Routledge.

Lewis, T.E. 2018. Inoperative learning: A radical rethinking of educational potentiality. New York: Routledge.

Zhao, W. 2019. China’s education, curriculum knowledge, and cultural inscriptions: Dancing with the wind. New York: Routledge.