Imagining Language: An Anthology

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When works such as Joyce's Finnegans Wake and Stein's Tender Buttons were first introduced, they went so far beyond prevailing linguistic standards that they were widely considered "unreadable," if not scandalous. Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffery take these and other examples of twentieth-century avant-garde writing as the starting point for a collection of writings that demonstrates a continuum of creative conjecture on language from antiquity to the present. The anthology, which spans three millennia, generally bypasses chronology in order to illuminate unexpected congruities between seemingly discordant materials. Together, the writings celebrate the scope and prodigality of linguistic speculation in the West going back to the pre-Socratics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262681315
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Pages: 638
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jed Rasula is Associate Professor of English at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

Steve McCaffery is David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the State University of New York at Buffalo, New York.

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Table of Contents

Night Song of the Fish 8
Conditions 9
Canzone Rumorista 10
Caffe Concerto: Alfabeto a Sorpresa 11
Golfo Estivo 12
A Letterklankbeelden Poem 13
Punctuation Poem 15
From Change of All 16
From Finnegans Wake 21
Voks 25
transition's Revolution of the Word Dictionary 26
Short Introduction to the Word 28
The Readies 29
Scheme for Physical Improvement of Writers' Medium 35
The Inner Language 40
Workshop 42
How the Names Are Changed on the Peyote Journey 55
From Chirologia; or the Natural Language of the Hand 58
Of an Alphabet upon the Fingers 63
Canting Vocabulary 67
Erotism 74
Dialogues in Rhyming Slang from Me and My Girl 76
Slang in America 77
Tales in Boontling 81
Characteristics of Negro Expression 83
Harlem Jive 86
The Dialectic Criminal 91
Pronunciation Machine 97
Oral Gymnastics 99
From The Birds 101
Expression 102
Kikakoku! 104
Das Grosse Lalula 105
From In 106
Carry 107
Karawane 108
Onomatopea Rumorista Macchina Tipografica 110
Canzone di Maggio 111
Poeme a Crier et a Danser 112
From Altazor 114
From Sonata in Urlauten 116
Rrose Selavy, etc 118
F.M.R. 119
Hissing and Bellowing 121
Jappements a la Lune 124
Clef du Petit Abecedaire Illustre 126
Tabula Aurea Salomonis et Hermetis 132
Enochian Table 133
Enochian Call 134
The Angelic Language 135
Quatrain in Utopian Vernacular 137
Utopian and Cabalistic Verses Accompanying Coryat's Crudities 138
Utopian and Barmoodan Verses 140
The Lord's Prayer in Formosan 141
The Formosan Alphabet 142
Glossolalia 143
Martian Script 145
From The Candle of Vision 147
Samples of the Inner Script 151
From Gargantua and Pantagruel 158
Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry 161
Maximiliana 162
H 166
From Dicamus et Labyrinthos: A Philologist's Notebook 180
Tablet XI 188
Parable of the Blind Homer and the Deaf Aesop 192
Arakawa's Line in Helen Keller's Signature 194
The Origin of Writing 205
Neaudethaumata, a Universal Language 206
The Forms of Distinctional Marks 211
Sample Dictation 223
A Clausing System of Translation 224
A Double Chronogram 226
Of Writing by Invented Characters 227
Unspoken Music 229
Pronunciation Diagrams 231
From Memoria Technica 232
Anglo-Latin Letter to Dr. Sheridan 236
Rational Prosody for Hamlet 237
Masson's Semiography 240
Timeslide 242
Three Visual Lip-Poems 243
A Project for Improving Speculative Knowledge 253
Conditions of a Language 255
Combinatorial Diagrams 256
Radi Os, Book III 259
From A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 276
Writing for the Second Time through Finnegans Wake 281
From Men in Aida 284
From Gems 287
Transverse Flute Narrative for "Winds"/"Instruments" 289
Clinical Dialogues with Schizophrenics 296
From Memoirs of My Nervous Illness 301
From Jubilate Agno 313
Mnemonic for the Opening of Dante's Commedia 318
Funes the Memorious 320
The 72 Names of God 334
The Divine Emanation 335
Sefer Yetsirah 338
The Geometry of the Mind 341
From Mysterium Magnum 343
Character; Letter 348
Declaration of the Word as Such 356
Heights (Universal Language) 358
Lecture on Word Creation 359
The Warrior of the Kingdom 361
A Checklist: The Alphabet of the Mind 365
Sigils: Belief with Protection 368
Weaving and the Word 372
Epilogismus Combinationis Linearis 379
Rongo-Rongo of Easter Island 385
From Champ Fleury 386
Arabic Mystical Alphabet (medieval) 394
Psychogenesis of the Letter B 401
The Serpent 411
A Hieroglyphic Alphabet 413
The Poetical Alphabet 414
Towards a Three-Dimensional Pouitry 420
Architectural Alphabet 423
Probable Systems 14: Re-discovery of the 22 Letter Alphabet: An Archaeological Report 425
Biliteral Cipher 432
Biliteral Cipher 434
Where Signs Resemble Thoughts 435
Trial in the Court of Vowels 446
A Litteralial Scheme of Writing 449
Augmented Characters 450
New Orthografye 451
Orthographic Reforms 453
Phonetic Version of Spenser's Faerie Queene 454
The Somatic Production of Sounds 455
Schematic Diagrams for an Organic Alphabet 456
Cherokee Alphabet 459
Five Versions of Fonotypy 461
Visible Speech 463
Colossal Labor Saving 467
Chladni Figures 477
Crystal Systems 480
The Railway Embankment in Spring 490
The Origin of Language from Our Ancestor Frogs 493
Monologue 501
Glossary: My Glosses' Ossuary 503
Diary Entries on Etymology 505
Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves 508
From The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry 509
Letters 519
The Origin of Things, Symbols, and Language 525
From De Rerum Natura 539
Malevich Torpedoed 541
Vortex 543
Fraction 546
Re-entry into the Form 549
The Radical Characters of Verbs and Nouns 560
Sources of Quotations 562
Further Reading 580
General Bibliography 584
Index 606
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