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Poiesis and Possible Worlds

Poiesis and Possible Worlds: A Study in Modality and Literary Theory

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Poiesis and Possible Worlds
    Book Description:

    Martin argues that literary studies remain mired in the anomalies of a linguistic methodology derived from early 20th-century language philosophy, a view challenged not only by theoretical physics, but also by compelling advances in philosophic semantics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7857-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)

    • CHAPTER ONE The Paradox of the Many: Post-Structuralism and Zeno
      (pp. 3-26)

      In thePhilosophical InvestigationsWittgenstein said, ʹIf a lion could talk, we could not understand him.ʹ¹ A generation later, literary and critical studies appear the happy heirs of Wittgenstein’s linguistic revolution. If it is true, as he says, that ʹthe limits of my languagemean the limits of my worldʹ² - that my language vitally constitutes all I know, can know, or need to know - then literary and critical theory stands in the privileged position of being queen of the sciences. Yet when literary and critical theory discharges the duties of the office, binding all the terms of logic,...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Paradox of the One: Language as Universal Medium
      (pp. 27-54)

      Towards the end of the first chapter, I showed how post-structuralism’s unique philosophy of difference, though it frees one from the metaphysics of absolutes, nevertheless confines one to a single world of interlocking differentiation. This phenomenon I called the one-world paradox. It is as if post-structuralists were playing Zeno’s paradox in a single arena, relinquishing substantive differences of different kinds in favour of an (dare we say it?) undifferentiated difference. In this chapter we consider the underlying semantic model upon which poststructuralist theory and a significant amount of contemporary philosophy of language is based. The previous chapter examined the inner...


    • CHAPTER THREE Talk of Possible Worlds: Language as Calculus
      (pp. 57-80)

      The next two chapters move beyond the constraints of a one-world semantics, formulating a theory of possible worlds that is justifiable logically and linguistically, and is compatible with the way we read literary texts. Developing the linguistic half of that theory in the present chapter, I shall discuss features of the following: the nature of semantic enquiry, metalanguage, and language as calculus. I contrast, first, a one-world semantics with a possible-worlds semantics, arguing that the latter affords the only way out of the paradoxes presented in the first section of the book. Then sorting out certain basic options in semantic...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Poiesis of Possible Worlds: A Theory of Possibility for Literature
      (pp. 81-120)

      I argue in this chapter that possible worlds are important to logical and linguistic analyses without committing us to an extravagant metaphysics. Indeed, I argue that possible worlds are indispensable to such analyses, and that to live in this world is nearly impossible without referring to possible worlds. My purpose in this chapter is not to enter into a full-scale technical analysis of possible-worlds semantics, for such analyses have been ably written by others.¹ Rather, I wish to introduce its main features to literary theorists and critics, suggesting specifically how it illuminates not only the topics of fiction and narrative,²...


    • CHAPTER FIVE From Models to Metaphors: Possibility, Aesthetics, and Literary Theory
      (pp. 123-152)

      This chapter applies the theory of possibility developed in the preceding chapters specifically to the theory of literature. I shall first examine what a model-theoretic approach has to suggest to the definition of literature, exploring the distinctiveness of literary (as opposed to ordinary) language. Extending the definition of literature, I explore, secondly, the ways a possible-worlds semantics can enhance our understanding of metaphor. I wonder: with all the theorizing in the last few decades concerning the nature of metaphor, can a possible-worlds approach still contribute to the discussion? In response, I argue that advantages accrue from considering metaphor from a...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 153-178)
  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 179-192)
  9. Author Index
    (pp. 193-196)