LANGUAGE IN LITERATURE by Roman Jakobson

LANGUAGE IN LITERATURE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a time when signifier and signified seem like shuttlecocks in an elegant intellectual badminton game, it's vital to see where semiotics almost went (and still might go) as explored by someone who also heard poetry and prose as music rather than merely symbolic dialectic. Jakobson--co-founder of both the Moscow and Prague Linguistic Circles early in the century, friend of Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov, Pasternak; brilliant teacher in the US--was one of the century's great intellectuals. His collected work stands published for scholars, but here are the essays--on Pasternak, on Blake, on Baudelaire's Le Chat, on aphasia and metaphor, on Hopkins, on statuary in Pushkin--that are legends of scientific criticism. Oddly, for all that, Jakobson's brilliance never has quite been enough appreciated in academic circles: his definitions of and rededications to the ideas of phonemic determinism, metonymy, and realism--particularly these--go against still prevailing academic tastes for the morpheme, metaphor, and irony. But maybe with this volume a real crack will be made, bringing as it does a remarkable range of reading (more impressive in a way than even Erich Auerbach's in Mimesis) to bear on the DNA-like proteins of literary creation. Indispensable for anyone interested in the meanings and powers of language.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0674510283
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press