SPEAKING AND LANGUAGE: Defense of Poetry by Paul Goodman


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A suggestive contribution by the poet, pundit and para-philosopher, whose other writings on the subject of language include The Structure of Literature and a chapter in Gestalt Therapy. Here he offers no systematic elaborations but a set of emphases, a bunch of apercus, and a series of sharp, compressed polemics against a variety of modern linguists. The emphases include expressive, as opposed to instrumental, powers of language and the ""tension between clarity and expression."" The particular perceptions range from ""the speech-embarrassment of alienated young people"" with their ""like"" and ""you knows"" to the anomalies of ancient word formation. Sometimes they are pat or smug or abbreviated or shallow: he emphasizes the ""lawless"" side of slang, but not its conceptual-connotative innovations or stereotypical side, and he parallels the way Keats fruitfully ""deranged"" the linguistic code with the way Einstein changed scientific code elements. At the same time however he recognizes the cognitive dimension of language as when he concludes that ""A strong and scrupulous style is a method of discovery."" The polemics range from the ""panlogism"" of the phenomenologists and the perverse rationalism of Chomsky to the narrowminded dogmas of assorted positivists and behaviorists. While it hardly stands as a positive theoretical contribution, it could be an invaluable guide and stimulant for students in particular and philologists in the largest sense.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1971
Publisher: Random House