Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226464442 Published May 2017
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226464305 Published May 2017
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Revolution of the Ordinary

Literary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell

Toril Moi

Revolution of the Ordinary

Toril Moi

304 pages | 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226464442 Published May 2017
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226464305 Published May 2017
E-book $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226464589 Published May 2017
This radically original book argues for the power of ordinary language philosophy—a tradition inaugurated by Ludwig Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin, and extended by Stanley Cavell—to transform literary studies. In engaging and lucid prose, Toril Moi demonstrates this philosophy’s unique ability to lay bare the connections between words and the world, dispel the notion of literature as a monolithic concept, and teach readers how to learn from a literary text.

Moi first introduces Wittgenstein’s vision of language and theory, which refuses to reduce language to a matter of naming or representation, considers theory’s desire for generality doomed to failure, and brings out the philosophical power of the particular case. Contrasting ordinary language philosophy with dominant strands of Saussurean and post-Saussurean thought, she highlights the former’s originality, critical power, and potential for creative use. Finally, she challenges the belief that good critics always read below the surface, proposing instead an innovative view of texts as expression and action, and of reading as an act of acknowledgment. Intervening in cutting-edge debates while bringing Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell to new readers, Revolution of the Ordinary will appeal beyond literary studies to anyone looking for a philosophically serious account of why words matter.
Contents
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations

Introduction
Part I   Wittgenstein
1          “Five Red Apples”: Meaning and Use
2          Our Lives in Language: Language-Games, Grammar, Forms of Life
3          Concepts: Wittgenstein and Deconstruction
4          Thinking through Examples: The Case of Intersectionality
Part II  Differences
5          Saussure: Language, Sign, World
6          Signs, Marks, and Archie Bunker: Post-Saussurean Visions of Language
7          Critique, Clarity, and Common Sense: Ordinary Language Philosophy and Politics
Part III  Reading
8          “Nothing Is Hidden”: Beyond the Hermeneutics of Suspicion
9          Reading as a Practice of Acknowledgment: The Text as Action and Expression
10        Language, Judgment, and Attention: Writing in the World

Notes
Works Cited
Index
Review Quotes
Rita Felski, author of The Limits of Critique
Revolution of the Ordinary is a milestone in literary studies. In lucid and invigorating prose, Moi shows how a certain picture of ‘literary theory’ has held us captive and offers a brilliant and devastating analysis of its weaknesses. Drawing on the tradition of ordinary language philosophy, she offers a new vision of how we might think and read. This groundbreaking book will shape conversations among literary scholars for years to come.”
Choice
"Drawing on the ordinary language philosophy of Wittgenstein, Cavell, and (to a lesser degree) Austin, Moi offers a compelling argument that the Saussurean project is backward: one cannot develop a theory of language because language is indeterminate; instead, use determines meaning. Writing in perspicuous prose, the author guides the reader through the basics of ordinary language philosophy and demonstrates how a Wittgensteinian attention to specific examples of ordinary use offers a radical and liberating method for approaching texts. Moi advocates moving beyond the cynicism of the 'hermeneutics of suspicion' (Ricoeur's coinage) as she traces a fresh approach to reading the world. A bold reassessment of literary studies after theory, and a project one can hope will revolutionize inquiry into rhetoric...Essential."
Los Angeles Review of Books
“[Moi's] important new book, Revolution of the Ordinary, makes a case for rejecting the approach to language that the 'theory project' produced. . .beyond challenging the ways that literary studies thinks about language, Moi challenges the distinction between literature and life.”
Australasian Journal of American Studies
"Toril Moi’s Revolution of the Ordinary is probably the most important work of literary crit­icism published this century. Its audacious title isn’t at all misplaced: Moi’s intervention is genuinely revolutionary, with wide-ranging im­plications for literary critics of all kinds. Her goal is nothing less than a transformation of the field as it currently stands. . .It's hard to overstate just how provocative and valuable Revolution of the Ordinary really is. . .and will surely inspire readers to recalibrate their thinking on a wide range of questions."
R. M. Berry, Florida State University
"Revolution of the Ordinary takes on the formidable challenge of making Wittgenstein understandable and brilliantly shows his work’s relevance for critics educated in post-Structuralist, Lacanian, deconstructive, new historicist, culturalist, postcolonial, queer, feminist, and critical race theories. The growing interest in Wittgenstein among both literary critics and contemporary writers and poets absolutely demands this book.”
John Gibson, University of Louisville
“This is an agenda-setting work by a preeminent literary theorist. It is also tremendously fun to read. Revolution of the Ordinary is the kind of book that tells literary scholars and philosophers how to repair their relationship, and how to do so without losing what is distinctive about each discipline.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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