Representative Words: Politics, Literature, and the American Language, 1776-1865

Representative Words: Politics, Literature, and the American Language, 1776-1865

by Thomas Gustafson
     
 

ISBN-10: 052106564X

ISBN-13: 9780521065641

Pub. Date: 02/28/2008

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Ralph Waldo Emerson's dictum "The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language" belongs to a long tradition of writing connecting political disorders and the corruption of language that stretches back in Western culture at least to Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. Representative Words, which gives an account of the tradition from its…  See more details below

Overview

Ralph Waldo Emerson's dictum "The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language" belongs to a long tradition of writing connecting political disorders and the corruption of language that stretches back in Western culture at least to Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. Representative Words, which gives an account of the tradition from its classical and Christian origins through the Enlightenment, is primarily a study of how and why Americans renewed and developed it between the ages of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Drawing upon a wide range of materials from politics, linguistics, literature, history, rhetoric and law, this study focuses on the quest by statesmen and writers from John Adams and Noah Webster to Emerson and Lincoln to oppose the corruption of words or to establish a more representational language - a quest, Gustafson argues, that was at the heart of revolutionary politics and American Renaissance literature. By studying the history and dynamics of the relationship between fears of corruption and efforts at conservation and renewal in language - a relationship embedded in Emerson's reflections on language in Nature - Representative Words establishes an important context for understanding the connections between the classical rhetorical and republican traditions and the ideology of the Declaration and the Constitution as well as between the politics and the literature of antebellum America. The American Revolution, the Civil War, and works by such writers as Brackenridge, Cooper, Melville, and Stowe are viewed in part as arising from a crisis of linguistic as well as political representation that Gustafson terms the "Thucydidean moment" - a time when words are perceived to be not a representative sign of ideas but a sovereign, duplicitous force. Combining extensive historical investigation in grammars, rhetorics, political pamphlets, and journal essays with the perspectives provided by contemporary literary theory on the

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521065641
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
02/28/2008
Series:
Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Series, #60
Pages:
488
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations and Editions Cited
Introduction1
Pt. IThe American Logocracy: The Nexus of Word and Act
1Political and Linguistic Representation: Confidence or Distrust?19
2Language and Legal Constitutions: The Problem of Change and Who Governs37
Pt. IIPolitical and Linguistic Corruption: The Ideological Inheritance
3The Classical Pattern: From the Order of Orpheus to the Chaos of the Thucydidean Moment69
4The Christian Typology: From Eden to Babel to Pentecost99
5Eloquence, Liberty, and Power: Civic Humanism and the Counter-Renaissance117
6The Enlightenment Project: Language Reform and Political Order137
Pt. IIIThe American Language of Revolution and Constitutional Change
7The Language of Revolution: Combating Misrepresentation with the Pen and Tongue195
8The Grammar of Politics: The Constitution270
Pt. IVFrom Logomachy to Civil War: The Politics of Language in Post-Revolutionary America
9The Unsettled Language: Schoolmasters vs. Truants301
10Corrupt Language and a Corrupt Body Politic, or the Disunion of Words and Things348
11Sovereign Words vs. Representative Men372
Afterword397
Notes401
Index455

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >