Friday, February 24, 2006

"Nada disto é simples"

"The phenomena of language ought to be classified according to the purpose for which the speaker uses his language resources in a given instance."
(Lev Jakubinsky, citado por Marjorie Perloff)

"From a Wittgensteinian perspective, perhaps the first thing to note is that Fish's argument is that, however much Fish wants to redefine what literature is and whence its authority comes, he never seems to doubt that definition (more accurately, redefinition) is possible. Take the declaration in the headnote, "Literature, I argue, is the product of a way of reading, of a community agreement about what will count as literature, which leads the members of the community to pay a certain kind of attention and thereby to create literature." "Literature, I argue, is... ": the sentence assumes that there is such a thing as literature and that this thing is in urgent need of redefinition. "The nature of the literary institution," Fish goes on to say, "will be continually changing" - again a proposition based on a particular assumption, namely, that a "literary institution" has a basic nature, subject to change. And furthermore, "Aesthetics... is not the once and for all specification of essentialist literary and nonliterary properties but an account of the historical process by which such properties emerge." "Aesthetics is not. ... ": Fish's sentence never questions for a moment that there is such a thing as aesthetics; it merely attacks a particular notion of aesthetics ("the once and for all specification of essentialist liter¬ary and nonliterary properties") and corrects it: "[Aesthetics is] an account of the historical process by which such properties [literary properties] emerge." But if "literature" cannot be specified, how can it have "properties"? More important: if we cannot, according to Fish, define the literary, how is it that we know what the term historical means? (…) By now it should be clear that Fish merely replaces one set of binary oppositions with another, the “interpretive community” now becoming the locus of literary interpretation and value judgment as against the "ordinary” or random readership that presumably does not confer meaning and value on a given text.
But suppose one scraps the notion that the ordinary must be defined in relation to its opposite, the extraordinary, or indeed in relation to anything outside it. Wittgenstein's ordinary is best understood as quite simply that which is, the language we do actually use when we communicate with one another. In this sense, the ordinary need not be literal, denotative, propositional, neutral, referential, or any of the other adjectives with which it has been equated in the ordinary/literary debate. On the contrary, our actual language may well be connotative, metaphoric, fantastic, the issue being quite simply whether and in what context people use it.
'Philosophic puzzles are irrelevant to our every-day life. They are puzzles of language. Instinctively we use language rightly; but to the intellect this use is a puzzle.' (Wittgenstein, LEC1 1)
'What is called understanding a sentence is not very different from what a child does when he points to colors when hearing color words. Now there are alll sorts of language games...' (LEC2 11)"

(Marjorie Perloff, Wittgenstein’s Ladder, Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1996, ps. 52, 55-58, 60)