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Why Do We Quote?

Why Do We Quote?: The Culture and History of Quotation

Ruth Finnegan
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 343
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  • Book Info
    Why Do We Quote?
    Book Description:

    Quoting is all around us. But do we really know what it means? How do people actually quote today, and how did our present systems come about? This book brings together a down-to-earth account of contemporary quoting with an examination of the comparative and historical background that lies behind it and the characteristic way that quoting links past and present, the far and the near. Drawing from anthropology, cultural history, folklore, cultural studies, sociolinguistics, literary studies and the ethnography of speaking, Ruth Finnegan’s fascinating study sets our present conventions into cross-cultural and historical perspective. She traces the curious history of quotation marks, examines the long tradition of quotation collections with their remarkable recycling across the centuries, and explores the uses of quotation in literary, visual and oral traditions. The book tracks the changing definitions and control of quoting over the millennia and in doing so throws new light on ideas such as 'imitation', 'allusion', 'authorship', 'originality' and 'plagiarism'.

    eISBN: 978-1-906924-35-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations and Note on Sources
    (pp. xvii-xviii)

    • 1. Prelude: A Dip in Quoting’s Ocean
      (pp. 3-12)

      As I sit upstairs at my desk thinking about quoting, a series of repeated chunks of language and evocations of voices become visible and audible to me. On a shelf beside me stands a calligraphic display framed in New Zealand wood given me by a (not wholly respectful) daughter: ‘If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done’.

      It declares itself as a quotation by the curly double marks at start and finish of the first three lines and its attributed author at the bottom (the famous ‘Anonymous’); also perhaps by its frame, its layout and the white...

    • 2. Tastes of the Present: The Here and Now of Quoting
      (pp. 13-42)

      What do people quote, and how? Where do they find their quotations? And what do they think about quoting? Since my own experience only goes so far, the next two chapters take a look at how some present-day people are engaging in quotation in the everyday life of here and now.

      Not that ‘here and now’ is simple to pin down. Even in the most local of local settings people follow diverse ways, and, as we know well, local patterns do not stand alone but interact with others across the world and the generations. To add to the complexity, any...

    • 3. Putting Others’ Words on Stage: Arts and Ambiguities of Today’s Quoting
      (pp. 43-76)

      What people quoted and how they found their quotations was one aspect of quoting in today’s here and now. But there are also the questions of how and when people engage in quoting, what they think about it and how they mark it out. This turned out more complex than appeared at first sight.

      How are others’ words and voices recognised? A key device for making something a quotation – unambiguously one might think – is for it to be separated out from the surrounding words by some accepted sign. The signals variously described as ‘quotation marks’, ‘quote marks’, ‘speech...


    • 4. Quotation Marks: Present, Past, and Future
      (pp. 79-112)

      Our writing and reading are nowadays pervaded by the symbols we know as ‘inverted commas’, ‘speech marks’, or ‘quotation marks’ – or often just the shorter ‘quote marks’ or ‘quotes’, a term that has been around for a century or more. These tell us that the words they enclose are to be attributed to someone else, that they belong to the realm of quoting. And though, like some of the contemporary British observers of Chapters 2 and 3, we may sometimes be uncertain exactly how these marks work, we also generally presume that there are established rules for using them,...

    • 5. Harvesting Others’ Words: The Long Tradition of Quotation Collections
      (pp. 113-152)

      Many people today have a collection of quotations on their shelves – not everyone, but not just the highly learned either. Among the twenty-first century British observers of Chapters 2 and 3 some had gathered their own collections over the years, others possessed and used one or more of the many published compilations, others again knew of their existence even if they made little use of them or questioned the motives of those who did. Quotation collections are an accepted feature of modern culture.

      Here is a different strand in the treatment of others’ words which complements the strategy of...

    • 6. Quotation in Sight and Sound
      (pp. 153-182)

      Over many centuries, then, quoting and quotations have flourished in written form, defined and authorised in planned compilations or through their demarcation by visually shown symbols. Writing has indubitably provided a rich framework in which humans have invoked and staged the words of others.

      But the examples in the opening chapters indicate the need to look further.Spokennot just written quotation figured among the contemporary British users, expressed not through the fixed visible signs of writing but in the dynamic engagement of auditory and bodily signals. And there are also the sounds and sights of multimodal performance, and the...

    • 7. Arts and Rites of Quoting
      (pp. 183-220)

      Quotation, imitation, tradition, allusion, model, reminiscence – these and similar notions run through the study of literature, of ritual and of culture. Others’ words and voices come in speeches on official occasions, in rituals, religious texts, and genres conceptualised as ‘high art’. The works of Milton or Wordsworth are crammed with allusions and parallels; Laurence Sterne’sTristram Shandy, the poems of Alexander Pope, the writings of Coleridge and countless other works in the literary canon borrow from earlier writers; and Renaissance literature fed among other things on the anthology of saws from earlier texts. Kuna ritual oratory featured quotes within...

    • 8. Controlling Quotation: The Regulation of Others’ Words and Voices
      (pp. 221-252)

      Like any other human activity quoting is socially organised. The practices and ideologies surrounding its use have, as we have seen, been interwoven with changing preconceptions over who and what should be quoted, with the recognised but varying linguistic, visual or gestural signs for marking others’ words and voices, and with the particular selections of words for preservation and display across the centuries. They have linked too into the established resources and arrangements that have made possible the scintillating human artistries of quotations – pictorial, graphic and material as well as verbal – with their recurrent threads and their mutations...


    • 9. What Is Quotation and Why Do We Do It?
      (pp. 255-266)

      Our glances at quoting in other times and places throw a sharper light on the contemporary quoting patterns with which we started. Though they are by no means uniform across all participants and situations, some of the specificities of that ‘here and now’ of quoting in twenty-first century England are now clearer. The dominant educational practices; presumption of widespread literacy; particular mix of media; literary genres; the tensions surrounding notions of plagiarism; the uses and prohibitions of quoting and their fluid dynamic amidst changing technologies and ethics; even the linguistic forms through which we speak and write – all these...

  9. Appendix 1. Quoting the Academics
    (pp. 267-286)
  10. Appendix 2. List of Mass Observation Writers
    (pp. 287-298)
  11. References
    (pp. 299-320)
  12. Index
    (pp. 321-328)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-331)