Literary Theory: the Basics, 2nd edition by Hans Bertens

By Hans Bertens

With a brand new advent and entirely up-to-date tips to additional interpreting, this second variation of Hans Bertens’ bestselling booklet is a must have consultant to the realm of literary idea. Exploring a extensive diversity of themes from Marxist and feminist feedback to post-modernism and new historicism it comprises new insurance of: the newest advancements in post-colonial and cultural idea literature and sexuality the newest colleges of concept, together with eco-criticism and post-humanism the way forward for literary conception and feedback. Literary conception: the fundamentals is a necessary buy for an individual who desires to be aware of what literary conception is and the place it is going.

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Extra resources for Literary Theory: the Basics, 2nd edition

Sample text

Structuralism has its origin in the thinking of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) who in the early twentieth century revolutionized the study of language. Nineteenth-century linguistics is mainly interested in the history of language – for instance, in how French and Italian developed out of Latin, or how English, Dutch, and German developed out of the West-Germanic language that the ancestors of the English, the Dutch, and the Germans shared some fifteen hundred years ago. They studied the origin of individual words (modern English ‘way’, for instance, derives from Old English ‘weg’) and they tried to formulate the laws that apparently govern processes of linguistic change.

More than a hundred years earlier the English poet Shelley had already claimed that poetry ‘lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world’ – Shelley had not much eye for awfulness – ‘and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar’ (quoted in Scholes 1974: 174). But although the Formalists were prepared to recognize this as a not unimportant effect of 25 26 F ORMALISM AND EARLY STRUCTURAL ISM , 1914–60 literature, they initially relegated it to the far background. The social function of literature, either as the repository of the best that had been thought and said, or as one of the great revitalizers (with the other arts) of our perception of the world around us, largely left them cold in the first phase of their explorations.

However, that cannot be true. After all, if that were the case we would indeed all speak the same language. Does this mean that Saussure’s improbable claim is correct? Are language and the world that we intuitively feel is reflected by that language really so separated from each other as he suggests? A strong point in Saussure’s favour is that form and meaning cannot be separated. If we change ‘ways’ to ‘days’ or ‘rays’ we do not only have a new form but also a new meaning. In other words, the differential principle does not only work to distinguish words from each other, it simultaneously distinguishes meanings from each other.

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