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Twilight of the Literary: Figures of Thought in the Age of Print / Edition 1

Twilight of the Literary: Figures of Thought in the Age of Print / Edition 1

by Terry CochranTerry Cochran


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In Western thought, the modern period signals a break with stagnant social formations, the advent of a new rationalism, and the emergence of a truly secular order, all in the context of an overarching globalization. In The Twilight of the Literary, Terry Cochran links these developments with the rise of the book as the dominant medium for recording, preserving, and disseminating thought. Consequently, his book explores the role that language plays in elaborating modern self-understanding. It delves into what Cochran calls the "figures of thought" that have been an essential component of modern consciousness in the age of print technology—and questions the relevance of this "print-bound" thinking in a world where print no longer dominates.

Cochran begins by examining major efforts of the eighteenth century that proved decisive for modern conceptions of history, knowledge, and print. After tracing late medieval formulations of vernacular language that proved crucial to print, he analyzes the figures of thought in print culture as they proceed from the idea of the collective spirit (the "people"), an elaboration of modern history. Cochran reconsiders basic texts that, in his analysis, reveal the underpinnings of modernity's formation—from Dante and Machiavelli to Antonio Gramsci and Walter Benjamin. Moving from premodern models for collective language to competing theories of history, his work offers unprecedented insight into the means by which modern consciousness has come to know itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674017719
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/15/2005
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.69(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Terry Cochran is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal.

Table of Contents



I. Founding Matters

1. Hegemony of the Vernacular

2. Figural Economy of the Worldview

3. Illusions of Unfolding Time

II. From Europe to the Globe

4. The Epic Figure of Literary History

5. Cosmopolitical Grounding of Literature

III. Unplanned Obsolescence

6. The Use andAbuse of the Human

7. Collective Culture of Print

8. Reflections on the Force of the Figure



What People are Saying About This

Paul Bové

Twilight of the Literary has profound consequences for those who, especially currently in the academic humanities, carry out work which they consider to be 'new,' revisionist,' 'oppositional,' or 'postmodernist'--in general, 'free' of the traditions of European thinking which, rightly or wrongly, they identify as obstacles to new knowledges, identities, and social practices. Cochran's text is impressively thorough in its analysis of the foundational processes of knowledge practices within the formations of modernity. This is a book about our world and how we might be said to have come to be who and where we are, and why, in large part, we now have so much trouble thinking about our situation.
Paul Bové, author of Mastering Discourse: The Politics of Intellectual Culture

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