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Panel for Modernist Studies Association Conference, November 5-8, 2009 (Montreal): Theories of Language as Modernist Theory
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The early twentieth century witnessed not only a variety of aesthetic experiments with language, but also a new wave of writing about language theoretically. The most well-known is the work that shaped what was to become twentieth-century linguistics: Saussure, Meillet, Benveniste, Jakobson, and the like. But it was not just linguists who tried to frame new conceptions of language: a wide variety of intellectuals from other fields decided, as if in concert, that understanding language was the key to understanding the basic problems of their disciplines and, in many cases, the very fate of European society. A few of these intellectuals, like Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin in philosophy, or Shklovsky and Tynyanov in literary criticism, initiated what we now know as a “linguistic turn” in their disciplines, but others - Ernst Cassirer, Ogden and Richards – made turnings that no one else chose to follow, for better or worse.
In this panel we will examine this flood of theorising about language as itself a modernist move or phenomenon. Our interest will be in analysing and explaining significant writing about language in terms that allow us to see the links between language theory and other aspects – political, historic, artistic – of modernism. Proposals for papers on writing about language in the period 1890-1950 that place it in this kind of context are welcome. We particularly encourage papers that address these “linguistic turns” themselves as in some sense “modernist”. Please email a 300-word abstract of your paper and a 2-3 line scholarly biography to Ken Hirschkop, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo at: firstname.lastname@example.org