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[Update]: Philosophy of Language and Narrative (3/15/10; MLA 2011)
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What can the philosophy of language contribute to narrative theory?
When we ask how a sentence in use expresses the thought that attaches to it, or how descriptions of relations conjure the fictional world that in turn depends upon them, what we are really revealing is the conditions that must obtain if the sentence or relations are to count as meaningful. Each referring term in a narrative carries its truth conditions with it—-a speaker’s propositional attitudes or background, her intention, the conventions within which she and the narrative operates, the criteria under which readers can verify, use, translate, or name the object of her sentence—-and as these conditions shift, characters and plots emerge and develop.
Recently, these conditions have emerged as fruitful subjects in themselves for literary study. New philosophically-inflected criticism on reference and literary objects by Elaine Scarry, Barbara Johnson, Myra Jehlen and others has appeared alongside issues of philosophical journals devoted to intersections between analytic philosophy and narrative. Literary-critical panels on ordinary language philosophy, reference and sensation, and the philosophy of actants and objects are proliferating. And analytic philosophy is furthering its application to the questions of metaphysics, hermeneutics, and motor-intentional embodiment that have engaged literary critics for decades.
This panel reflects this critical turn, arguing that intersections between the philosophy of language and narrative theory prove vital to our understanding of how referential language works.
Topics may include (but are not limited to) theories of reference, speech acts, intentionality, metaphor, translation, demonstratives, fictionality, propositional attitudes, pragmatics, meaning and use.
All genres, periods, and languages are welcome, as are relevant implications for the study of objects, plots, characters.
Please submit abstracts (and queries) of any length by March 15 to:
All presenters must be members of the Modern Language Association by April 7, 2010.