Theoretical Inquiry


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Language, Linguistics, and Literature

Austin E. Quigley

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In the aftermath of debate about the death of literary theory, Austin E. Quigley asks whether theory has failed us or we have failed literary theory. Theory can thrive, he argues, only if we understand how it can be strategically deployed to reveal what it does not presuppose. This involves the repositioning of theoretical inquiry relative to historical and critical inquiry and the repositioning of theories relative to each other.
What follows is a thought-provoking reexamination of the controversial claims of pluralism in literary studies. The book explores the related roles of literary history, criticism, and theory by tracing the fascinating history of linguistics as an intellectual problem in the twentieth century. Quigley’s approach clarifies the pluralistic nature of literary inquiry, the viability and life cycles of theories, the controversial status of canonicity, and the polemical nature of the culture wars by positioning them all in the context of recurring debates about language that have their earliest exemplifications in classical times.

Austin E. Quigley is Dean of Columbia College, Columbia University, and former president of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics.

"Quigley shows us that a better understanding of linguistics can lead us out of certain central dilemmas of contemporary literary theory. His book is ambitious, both in its scope and its aims, and it delivers on its promises."—Paul Cantor, University of Virginia

'...a most scrupulous and interesting analysis...' - Jeremy Tambling, Modern Language Review

ISBN: 9780300101669
Publication Date: December 11, 2003
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4