Call for Paper Abstracts for Roundtable Session titled: To Instruct, to Delight … or to Move? Forgotten Eloquence in Fictional Texts (ID #15500). Area: Comparative Languages & Theory. Secondary Area: Interdisciplinary Humanities.
Contemporary theories of meaning, among mainstream linguists and philosophers alike, have taken as their starting point the notion that language addresses itself to the understanding, that the purpose of communication is to be understood. But is communication actually addressed to such a faculty? Or is the nature of language- and of communication generally- in fact to be aimed at some other target(s)? One may be skeptical that ‘understanding’ is so pure an ability as to be independent of our other capacities and interests. There is, in fact, a venerable tradition that suggests otherwise. Cicero maintained that the orator was the paradigm language-user, and that oratory must move, delight, and instruct its audience- with the first being indispensable and the purpose to which the others were subordinated. Eloquence was not an ornament of speech, and instruction- which presumably is the province of the ‘understanding’- was not the reason we are moved to speech. Where can we find Cicero’s legacy in contemporary thought? And is it a valuable or pernicious legacy? This panel welcomes papers which creatively explore this question in relation to specific fictional texts.
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