Linguistic Turns rewrites the intellectual and cultural history of early twentieth-century Europe. In chapters that study the work of Saussure, Russell, Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, Benjamin, Cassirer, Shklovskii, the Russian Futurists, Ogden and Richards, Sorel, Gramsci, and others, it shows how European intellectuals came to invest "language" with extraordinary force, at a time when the social and political order of the continent was itself in question. By examining linguistic turns in concert rather than in isolation, the volume changes the way we see them - no longer simply as moves in individual disciplines, but as elements of a larger constellation, held together by common concerns and anxieties. In a series of detailed readings, the volume reveals how each linguistic turn invested "language as such" with powers that could redeem not just individual disciplines but Europe itself. It shows how, in the hands of different writers, language becomes a model of social and political order, a tool guaranteeing analytical precision, a vehicle of dynamic change, a storehouse of mythical collective energy, a template for civil society, and an image of justice itself. By detailing the force linguistic turns attribute to language, and the way in which they contrast "language as such" with actual language, the volume dissects the investments made in words and sentences and the visions behind them. The constellation of linguistic turns is explored as an intellectual event in its own right and as the pursuit of social theory by other means.
About the author
Ken Hirschkop is Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo.