The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Significance: A term used in hermeneutics to designate how readers relate the verbal meaning of a work to other elements in their lives, such as personal experiences, values, beliefs, and general cultural mores. Significance is typically distinguished from verbal meaning, which refers to the author’s intended meaning. Hermeneutic theory, whose best-known proponent is twentieth-century American critic E. D. Hirsch, postulates that verbal meaning can be determined but that significance cannot, since various readers bring different beliefs, values, and experiences to a text. Whereas verbal meaning can be construed as constant, significance changes from reader to reader; thus, no one significance is more right or wrong than any other. Hirsch therefore argued that significance is not the proper subject of hermeneutic analysis.