Owen Barfield (18981997) was born in London and educated at Wadham College, Oxford. An original member (along with C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien) of the Oxford discussion group The Inklings, Barfield later became an important disciple of Rudolph Steiner and proponent of anthroposophy. Barfield’s first published nonfiction book, History in English Words (1926) was followed by many others, including Poetic Diction (1928), Saving the Appearances (1965), and What Coleridge Thought (1971).
History in English Words (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)by Owen Barfield, W. H. Auden
Owen Barfield has been called “the first and last Inkling.” He was, in effect, a founding member of the 1920’s Oxford-based group, which included C. S. Lewis (who called Barfield “the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers”) and J. R. R. Tolkien (on whom Barfield’s book Poetic Diction had an appreciable/i>/b>/b>
Owen Barfield has been called “the first and last Inkling.” He was, in effect, a founding member of the 1920’s Oxford-based group, which included C. S. Lewis (who called Barfield “the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers”) and J. R. R. Tolkien (on whom Barfield’s book Poetic Diction had an appreciable impact). Often called a Christian thinker, Barfield argued for a holistic approach to language and realityan approach at odds with the reductionist, atomistic views prevalent in Oxbridge intellectual circles at the time.
History in English Words (1926), Barfield’s first nonfiction book, seeks to discover the evolution of consciousness in Western civilization by exploring the change in meanings of various Indo-Aryan words as used in the British Isles in particular. Barfield’s history in words, illustrated throughout by common English terms, is a pathway to discovering our humanity. “In our language alone,” he writes, “not to speak of its many companions, the past history of humanity is spread out in an imperishable map, just as the history of mineral earth lies embedded in layers of its outer crust. . . .Language has preserved for us the inner, living history of our soul.” Barfield’s purpose is not to break down language into its smallest parts in order to facilitate daily communication. It is to understand words as speechthe common property of humansthat reveals the mind and allows for the deeper communication that underlies all human activity.
Praise for History in English Words and its author:
“A learned, imaginative, moving and felicitously factual book.”Cyril Connolly
“We are well supplied with interesting writers, but Owen Barfield is not content to be merely interesting. His ambition is to set us free from the prison we have made for ourselves by our ways of knowing, our limited and false habits of thought, our ‘common sense.’”Saul Bellow
“Not only a joy to read but also of great moral value in the unending battle between barbarism and civilization.”W. H. Auden
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