Language Alone: The Critical Fetish of Modernity

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Psychology Press, 2002 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 261 pages
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How did the concept of language come to dominate modern intellectual history? In Language Alone, Geoffrey Galt Harpham provides at once the most comprehensive survey and most telling critique of the pervasive role of language in modern thought. He shows how thinkers in such diverse fields as philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology, and literary theory have made progress by referring their most difficult theoretical problems to what they presumed were the facts of language.
Through a provocative reassessment of major thinkers on the idea of language-Saussure, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Rorty, and Chomsky, among them-and detailed accounts of the discourses of ethics and ideology in particular, Harpham demonstrates a remarkable consensus among intellectuals of the past century and beyond that philosophical and other problems can best be understood as linguistic problems. And furthermore, that a science of language can therefore illuminate them. Conspicuously absent from this consensus, he shows, is any consideration of contemporary linguistics, or any awareness of the growing agreement among linguists that the nature of language as such cannot be known.
Ultimately, Harpham argues, the thought of language has dominated modern intellectual history because of its singular capacity to serve as a proxy for a host of concerns, questions, and anxieties-our place in the order of things, our rights and obligations, our nature or essence-that resist a strictly rational formulation. Language Alone will interest literary critics, philosophers, and anyone with an interest in the uses of language in contemporary thought.
 

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Contents

Language as Law 1 53
1
Saussure and the Concrete Object of Language
16
Saussure
26
A Language and Human Nature
57
Two IDEOLOGY AND THE FORM OF LANGUAGE
69
Marxism and the Economic Specter
78
From PostMarxism to Postmodernism
89
Language and the PsychoIdeological Subject
119
Three ETHICS AND THE LAW OF LANGUAGE
141
The Dream of
188
Postmodernism
205
On Culture
216
Works Cited
241
vii
248
Index
255
Copyright

Inversions
133

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About the author (2002)

Geoffrey Galt Harpham is Professor of English at Tulane University. His many books include On the Grotesque, The Ascetic Imperative in Culture and Criticism, Getting It Right: Language, Literature, and Ethics, One of Us: The Mastery of Joseph Conrad, and Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society.

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