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The Syntax of Desire

The Syntax of Desire: Language and Love in Augustine, the Modistae, Dante

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Syntax of Desire
    Book Description:

    In addition to detailed analyses of medieval texts,The Syntax of Desireexamines some aspects of the same relationship in light of contemporary linguistics, philosophy of language, and psychoanalysis.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8501-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-21)

    In principio erat Sermo.‘Discourse,’ not ‘the Word,’ is one of the oldest Latin translations of the complex polysemy involving the second person of the Trinity. Dangerously evocative of temporality, it was soon replaced byVerbum.When Erasmus, with crystalline humanistic intuition, tried to reinstate it, he encountered stern opposition.¹ Tertullian’s and Lactantius’ssermo– fromserere, ‘to weave’ (words together) – represents the inaugural ghostly trace of a metaphysics of syntax, of which this book brings some chapters to the fore.

    The unfolding of the eternalSermo/Verbuminto articulated discourse (time, Creation, creature) establishes the temporality, difference, mortality, and transience that...

  5. 1 Augustine: The Syntax of the Word
    (pp. 22-76)

    At the end of hisChristian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, Étienne Gilson describes the nature of Augustine’s discourse as a chain doctrine, where ‘everything stands together and holds together, so much so that Augustine cannot lay hold of one link in the chain without drawing the whole chain, and the historian who tries to examine it link by link is in constant danger of putting too much strain upon it and breaking it wherever he sets a provisional limit.’¹ With this warning in mind, in the following chapter I will take hold of a particularly crucial link of that chain,...

  6. 2 Modistae: The Syntax of Nature
    (pp. 77-120)

    Movement and desire, and with them time and mortality, are still at stake when the notion of syntax is examined from the point of view of grammar – the bottom discipline in the medieval system of knowledge, and the inverse discourse with respect to theology, as it deals with words as opposed to the Word. Medieval grammatical thought waxes with Latin language and wanes with universal language. Among the disciplines of the medieval system of knowledge, grammar appears as both the most necessary and the most dormant, with two significant exceptions: an initial descriptive position, with the systematization of the rules...

  7. 3 Dante: The Syntax of Poetry
    (pp. 121-174)

    After theology and grammar, poetry is a ‘third way’ to knowledge within the highly unified medieval epistemological system. With theology, the connection between a word and the Word – language and ‘n-squared language’ – was in focus; with grammar, a language about language – the square root of language – was key. Poetry decomposes the two constituents of language (sound and meaning) and, by turning the first into its ruling pattern (rhythm and rhyme), offers a different perspective on the second. Where theology provided the idea of a hyperbolic approach to the truth through language, and grammar a parabolic trajectory between reality and expression,...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 175-210)

    The themes of syntax and desire are very well represented in twentiethcentury thought – in philosophy, linguistics, psychoanalysis, and theology. Like in the Middle Ages, contemporary syntax and desire can be read as flexible concepts that hold together and secularly ‘redeem’ the split, disrupted, or disintegrated self. Syntax is a prominent feature of a God-like language (the reverse of the medieval language-like God) that shapes (and even ‘creates’) both the self and the world. Desire is a feature/fixture of a self that tries, more desperately than successfully, to overcome its finitude and lack – indeed finitude-as-lack. Transcendence has been marginalized but not...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 211-356)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 357-376)
  11. Index
    (pp. 377-380)