Onomatopoetics: Theory of Language and Literature

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The relations that words bear to the things they denote and to the thoughts they express are once again the central focus of linguistic enquiry. This provocative book now examines the implications of those issues for literature and raises anew the question of the nature of literary representation. It reviews Plato's discussion in the Cratylus of how words actually represent things, either naturally or conventionally, and contrasts Saussure's sense of the almost complete arbitrariness of language with Chomsky's idea of the innateness of grammar. The case against structural linguistics leads Joseph Graham's argument into semiotics and fundamental issues of meaning and intentionality. Currently plausible theories of how the mind represents the world distinguish clearly its verbal and visual modes, and thus give answers to aesthetic questions as to the real validity of the traditional analogies between poetry and painting. Dr. Graham shows the general concept of exemplification which emerges from the study of the mind to pertain directly to the study of literature and constitute a basic principle of literary theory. Reviewing Wimsatt's notion of the verbal icon, Fish's concept of literature as self-consuming artefact and de Man's idea of allegories of reading, Graham shows these rival theories to be in fact complementary, and their philosophical differences immaterial to poetic questions about the function of language in literature. He concludes that the real answers lie not in epistemology, but in a psychology that explains how literature teaches and why humans learn best by example.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521408752
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Series: Literature, Culture, Theory Series , #4
  • Pages: 330
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Philosophy in the Cratylus 1
What the Cratylus means 1
What Cratylus means 8
Names and nouns 16
Form and meaning 24
Meaning and truth 31
2 The foundation of linguistics 40
The promise of language 40
Saussure on the conventions of language 48
Chomsky and the nature of grammar 62
The place of grammar 76
3 The connection with semiotics 86
A general science of signs 86
Cognitive science 97
Language and semiotic systems 109
Natural and conventional 123
4 The difference in aesthetics 140
Poems like pictures 140
Depiction description 154
Concrete syntax 166
Grammar and rhetoric 177
5 The scope of poetics 199
Doubt in theory 199
Exemplification 214
Verbal icons 229
Self-consuming artefacts 246
Allegories of reading 267
Coda: Literature and the language of learning 285
Notes 291
Index 307
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