E 382L • Linguistics and Literary Criticism
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
The course will examine some recent connections and the ensuing disaffection between linguistics and speech act theory on the one hand and literary criticism on the other. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the sheer scientific and extra disciplinary authority of linguistics and ordinary language philosophy excited literary critics. The result was a proliferation of linguistics related texts, summaries of structuralist approaches to literature, stylistic analyses, interpretive methods modeled on borrowed linguistic concepts. But disillusionment quickly followed romance, and suddenly the most active promoters of a linguistics based literary theory became its most vocal opponents. Thus the critical conversation has long since moved on to deconstruction and new pragmatism, to literary history and cultural criticism. Yet it is not so easy to move on from an interdisciplinary interaction that once so dominated the critical scene. Linguistic and speech act terms have permanently entered our critical vocabulary, critics still relate their positions to particular linguistic models; and the linguistics influenced reading theories of this earlier period remain much cited texts. It is not so much that linguistic theory has disappeared as that its terms have been so assimilated as to escape notice. And so long have critics worked a borrowed linguistics, they no longer distinguish the original models from their literary incarnations. We will aim to examine such critical positions by reading the linguistics and speech related criticism of this transitional period, this time from the rather different perspective of the borrowed accounts. Our questions will be, How is a language theory transformed as it becomes a metaphor for criticism? What unresolved problems in the original discipline handicap the literary theory that borrows its models? How may one read early and recent versions of imported concepts ("narrative grammar," "performative") both with and against their originals? Finally, what are the implications for other kinds of interdisciplinary criticism? Put more specifically, we will examine several language theories (Saussurean linguistics, generative grammar, speech act theory) in relation to literary criticism (Prague School criticism, narratology, reader oriented theory, deconstruction, gender criticism).
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