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Theoretical Inquiry

Theoretical Inquiry: Language, Linguistics, and Literature

Austin E. Quigley
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Theoretical Inquiry
    Book Description:

    In the aftermath of debate about the death of literary theory, Austin E. Quigley asks whether theory has failed us or we have failed literary theory. Theory can thrive, he argues, only if we understand how it can be strategically deployed to reveal what it does not presuppose. This involves the repositioning of theoretical inquiry relative to historical and critical inquiry and the repositioning of theories relative to each other.What follows is a thought-provoking reexamination of the controversial claims of pluralism in literary studies. The book explores the related roles of literary history, criticism, and theory by tracing the fascinating history of linguistics as an intellectual problem in the twentieth century. Quigley's approach clarifies the pluralistic nature of literary inquiry, the viability and life cycles of theories, the controversial status of canonicity, and the polemical nature of the culture wars by positioning them all in the context of recurring debates about language that have their earliest exemplifications in classical times.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12981-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xxii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    When Gustav Bergmann remarked that philosophy in the modern era had taken a “linguistic turn,” he used a phrase that might be much more widely applied.¹ Whether we take it to imply an increased interest in language or an increased interest in linguistics (the science of language) is not, from case to case, as important as the general acknowledgment of a significant shift of attention. Language and linguistics moved in the twentieth century to the center of intellectual and aesthetic concerns. A steadily developing interest in humanity as a sign-using species enabled linguistic methodology to invade a variety of disciplines...

  5. Chapter 1 Literary Theory and Linguistic Theory
    (pp. 17-42)

    Legend has it that, when the British Broadcasting Corporation resumed its television service after the Second World War, the first announcer to appear on screen (who had also been the last to appear some years before) began with the words: “As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted. . . .” With the decline in literary studies of deconstructive relativism and its replacement by the further contextual monisms of politicized cultural studies, a more constrained pluralism has resumed the task of trying to move the discipline forward, giving the current situation in literary studies a similar sense of...

  6. Chapter 2 Saussure, Firth, and Bakhtin: Unity, Diversity, and Theory
    (pp. 43-75)

    Ferdinand de Saussure did not write the book for which he is most well known. The text was compiled from notes taken in three lecture courses he gave at the University of Geneva between 1906 and 1911. As Saussure did not publish these ideas and left behind no lecture notes of his own, we have to rely on a creative synthesis of notes taken by several students. The authors acknowledge the difficulty of the task of reconstruction, taking particular note of the fact that the three lecture courses were delivered over a period of five years in which Saussure’s ideas...

  7. Chapter 3 Chomsky and Halliday: Novelty, Generality, and Theory
    (pp. 76-118)

    In the context of the pictures of language developed by Firth and Bakhtin, the work of Saussure looks decidedly different than it does in the context of the structuralist movement that sought to maximize Saussurean notions of order in semiotic systems. The nature and function of linguistic theory also look decidedly different as theory must seek to address data it can neither predict in advance nor circumscribe in retrospect. Any “linguistic turn” toward such reconstituted theory would mean for other disciplines not a turn toward the “necessity” described earlier by Rorty but toward an accommodation between the competing claims of...

  8. Chapter 4 Wittgenstein: Facticity, Instrumentality, and Theory
    (pp. 119-155)

    Of the many issues that emerge from a review of post-Saussurean linguistics, few are as important as the precarious attempts to reconcile linguistic theory with linguistic variety and linguistic change. In spite of the considerable interest in linguistic creativity expressed by Chomsky and Halliday, both found themselves, at key points in the development of their theories, adopting positions which effectively exclude it. Both made subsequent efforts to include it again, but their lapses into unforeseen rigidity register the difficulties involved in requiring theory to be both comprehensive and open-ended. The possibility of locating comprehensive order strongly attracts linguistic theorists of...

  9. Chapter 5 Literary and Cultural Studies: Theory, History, and Criticism
    (pp. 156-214)

    It is evident that there are strong points of contact between the strategies of Wittgenstein seeking to develop new pictures of linguistic terrain, the theorizing of linguists who have sought to relate order to disorder in linguistic systems, and the efforts of pluralists to navigate between monism and relativism in literary studies. The use of theoretical discourse as an instrument for investigating creativity, for linking continuity to change, and for providing access to the unexpected requires in each case that theories be deployed in such a way that they do not occupy all the conceptual space they open up. Theories...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 215-248)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-254)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 255-258)
  13. Index
    (pp. 259-262)