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

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Open Book Publishers, Mar 1, 2011 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 327 pages
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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 crosscultural 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 defi nitions and control of quoting over the millennia and in doing so throws new light on ideas such as imitation, allusion, authorship, originality and plagiarism .

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Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite
Quotation is not something to which most people give much thought, but it is amazingly pervasive across many aspects of our lives. Why Do We Quote
? The Culture and History of Quotation by Ruth Finnegan is a marvelously in depth look at what quotation is, where and when it originated, how it is perceived and what it really even involves.
Full of academic research as well as widely held public opinion, Why Do We Quote? looks back at the history of language – the spoken as well as the written word. Surprises are plentiful as ancient Middle Eastern and Oriental practices are mentioned along with those of the Greeks and Romans so many of us are familiar with from school days. Even before the invention of the printing press, collections of quotations were popular in England, enjoyed by a rather broad audience over hundreds of years.
Another interesting aspect to this work is the consideration of oral tradition among tribal groups and how that is similar to other vocal quotations through song and performance even today. It also addresses the common phrases used so often as proverbs, adages and good old-fashioned sayings designed to help define proper behavior.
Although Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation is a bit heavy at times, it is obvious that Ruth Finnegan loves delving into the subject matter. Her use of a wide variety of resources, including the Mass Observation Panel of commentators through the University of Sussex, provides plenty of authority to the discussion of a concept that is broader and more complicated than simply knowing when to use quotation marks for a school essay. The work is amazing and the author has a lot of interesting, wonderful things to say.



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