How cubism and Dada radically reimagined the social nature of language, following the utopian poetic vision of Stéphane Mallarmé. At the outset of the twentieth century, language became a visual medium and a philosophical problem for European avant-garde artists. In Total Expansion of the Letter, art historian Trevor Stark offers a provocative history of this “linguistic turn,” centered on the radical doubt about the social function of language that defined the avant-garde movements. Major cubists and Dadaists—including Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Tristan Tzara—appropriated bureaucratic paperwork, newspapers, popular songs, and advertisements, only to render them dysfunctional and incommunicative. In doing so, Stark argues, these figures contended with the utopian vision of the late nineteenth-century poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who promised a “total expansion of the letter.” In his poems, Mallarmé claimed, “the act of writing was scrutinized down to its origins.” This scrutiny, however, delivered his work into an indeterminate zone between mediums, social practices, and temporalities—a paradox that reverberates through Stark's wide-ranging case studies in the history of the avant-garde. Stark examines Picasso's nearly abstract works of 1910, which promised to unite painting and writing at the brink of illegibility; the cubists' “hope of an anonymous art,” expressed in newspaper collages and industrial colors; the collaborative, cacophonous invention of “simultaneous poems” by the Dadaists in Zurich during World War I; and Duchamp's artistic exploration of chance in gambling and finance. Each of these cases reflected the avant-garde's transformative encounter with the premise of Mallarmé's poetics: that language—the very medium of human communication and community—is perpetually in flux and haunted by emptiness.
In Canto XVIII of Paradiso, Dante sees thirty-five letters of Scripture - LOVE JUSTICE, YOU WHO RULE THE EARTH - 'painted' one after the other in the sky. It is an epiphany that encapsulates the Paradiso, staging its ultimate goal - the divine vision. This book offers a fresh, intensive reading of this extraordinary passage at the heart of the third canticle of the Divine Comedy. While adapting in novel ways the methods of the traditional lectura Dantis, William Franke meditates independently on the philosophical, theological, political, ethical, and aesthetic ideas that Dante's text so provocatively projects into a multiplicity of disciplinary contexts. This book demands that we question not only what Dante may have meant by his representations, but also what they mean for us today in the broad horizon of our intellectual traditions and cultural heritage.
"German--and particularly French--sources of the revolution that has occurred in literary theory during the past thirty years have long been recognized. The Russian contribution to these events has been hinted at previously, but Cassedy documents in detail the extraordinary work of Potebnya, Veselovskij, and other figures virtually unknown in the West. . . . An important contribution to intellectual history and literary theory."--Michael Holquist, author of Dostoevsky and the Novel "An astonishing number of complex movements and ideas--from Humboldt through Russian and French Symbolists to Heidegger, Husserl, Roman Jakobson and the deconstructors, from symbology to logology and iconology--begin to fit together in this wide-ranging and provocative book. . . . Cassedy's book will outrage some readers, delight others, and enlighten all."--Caryl Emerson, author of Boris Godunov: Transpositions of a Russian Theme
In Jacques Derrida: Opening Lines, Marian Hobson gives us a thorough and elegant analysis of this controversial and seminal contemporary thinker. Looking closely at the language and the construction of some of Derrida's philosophy, Hobson suggests the way he writes, indeed the fact he writes in another language, affects how he can be understood by English speakers. This superb study on the question of language will make illuminating reading for anyone studying or engaged with Derrida's philosophy.