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History in English Words (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)

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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 reality—an approach at odds with the reductionist, atomistic views prevalent...

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Overview

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 reality—an 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 speech—the common property of humans—that 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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781435104228
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 5/25/2009
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Owen Barfield (1898–1997) 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).

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    if any book deserved to be rediscovered...

    Barfield's book was a completely wonderful discovery, and immensely valuable to any lover of words. It is fascinating from cover to cover, both in the larger picture it gives of the history and development of Western culture, philosophy, and language, and in the specific and detailed examples of the meanings of English words. If you ever wanted to know why the verb "to type" is the same word as "type" meaning "kind," or wondered where new words come from, your curiosity will be satisfied. Packed full of facts and literary and philosophical theory, History in English Words is also easy to read and completely understandable. One of the best finds I've made in years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2010

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