Guy J. Rotella
Mary Loeffelholz, David R. Kellogg, Bonnie Costello
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. English Department.
English, American poetry, Wittgenstein
Lyric poetry--History and criticism, Private language problem
English Language and Literature | Philosophy of Language
Applications of Wittgenstein in literary studies are far from copious. There are, to be sure, many significant works, including Marjorie Perloff's Wittgenstein's Ladder, Walter Jost's Rhetorical Investigations, and the small but thriving industry of Ordinary Language Criticism (where work by both Perloff and Jost, among others, can be found). The present study seeks to contribute to this growing body. But where Ordinary Language Criticism often champions Wittgenstein for the resistance he offers to theory, this study, while acknowledging his emphasis on description over explanation, finds much in his philosophy which bears upon continental modes of thought, modes which his so-called analytic method is said to oppose. Part of the study's originality thus consists in its refusal to stigmatize Wittgenstein in relation to literary studies by regarding him as non-continental or anti-theoretical and therefore as having little or nothing to offer to literary theory. In particular, I seek to reduce the supposed rift between Wittgenstein and Derrida by way of illustrating a connection between the two which has important ramifications not only in the world of poetry but in other circles, as well, both ""theoretical"" and ""ordinary."" The contention, simply put, is that Wittgenstein's private language argument and Derrida's assertion that errancy is integral to the structure of the mark, taken together, thoroughly dispel any philosophical position which asserts that the mind is in some fashion a self-contained entity and/or that meaning can be guaranteed by a sole, or private, intention. The effect of this contention on our conception of the lyric speaker as an isolated figure might be guessed. Recent studies in lyric theory have stressed the publicity of both the lyric and its speaker as opposed to their privacy, the fact, that is, that both are always operative first and foremost in a world. The aim of such studies is to bring poetry back from the margins of culture (whereto it is often relegated as a private, and thus politically irrelevant, practice) to its centers. My own aim is to augment these endeavors by stressing the untenability of lyric privacy from a Wittgensteinian standpoint and via a consideration of the limits of language (what they prohibit and what they enable) as they are explored not only by Wittgenstein but by several contemporary American poets, including Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, Charles Wright, Jorie Graham, Carl Phillips, and Frank Bidart.
Benjamin J. Leubner
Leubner, Benjamin J., "The limits of my language : Wittgenstein and contemporary American poetry" (2009). English Dissertations. Paper 3. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d10018220
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