English 190

Research Seminar: Literature and the Linguistic Turn


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2017 Blevins, Jeffrey
MWF 12-1 39 Evans

Other Readings and Media

See below.

Description

In the early twentieth century, philosophers began to suspect that all their ancient problems—from the riddle of selfhood to the mystery of other minds to the imprecision of sensation—were actually problems with language. We could fix everything, they thought, if only we could speak more clearly. And so, they concluded, philosophy had better become devoted to the study of language. This “linguistic turn” occurred simultaneously with the advent of literary modernism, which itself emphasized the fact of language by experimenting with grammar and syntax. However, unlike philosophers of the linguistic turn, modernists immediately recognized that this swerve into language created more (and richer) problems than it solved, because language is inherently ambiguous and paradoxical. Thus, we will see that modernist literature predicts the linguistic turn’s eventual demise at the hands of poststructural theorists decades later.

We will read works of modernist literature alongside philosophical sources in order to understand how philosophers and authors simultaneously worked through (often while in close personal and professional intimacy) issues with language like: vagueness/exactitude, denotation/connotation, figuration, metaphor, reference, description, naming, and sense/nonsense. Our focus throughout the course will be less on how modernists received philosophical ideas about language and more on how they manipulated and extended these ideas into new aesthetic and stylistic protocols.

We will read authors such as: Amiri Baraka, Samuel Beckett, Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, E.M. Forster, Robert Frost, Henry James, James Joyce, Marianne Moore, Charles Olson, Ezra Pound, Thomas Pynchon, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats.

We will read philosophers and theorists such as: Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gottlob Frege, Edmund Husserl, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, J.S. Mill, C.S. Peirce, Richard Rorty, Bertrand Russell, Ferdinand Saussure, Wilfred Sellars, A.N. Whitehead, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Additionally, we will screen a number of films and plays that foreground language as a philosophical issue.

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

Please click here for more information about enrollment in English 190.

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