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By C. Billitteri

This e-book takes up the utopian hope for an ideal language of phrases that provide direct expression to the true, recognized in Western notion as Cratylism, and its impression at the social visions and poetic initiatives of 3 of the main intellectually bold of yank writers: Walt Whitman, Laura (Riding) Jackson, and Charles Olson.

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Additional resources for Language and the Renewal of Society in Walt Whitman, Laura (Riding) Jackson, and Charles Olson: The American Cratylus

Example text

Naming is a matter of combining letters or syllables, recognizing the correct combination of qualities definitive of each particular thing. The True Forms of Things ● 13 Names, however, can only be grasped correctly by a few gifted individuals, the so-called legislators. In the Bible, Adam is a comparable figure, although the work he accomplishes is a little different from that taken on by Plato’s legislators. Adam’s naming is creative; the words he chooses do not express in advance the essences of things, but instead are the vehicle through which those essences can become known.

When a nation took alien words into its language, it had the right, or assumed it, to fix its new music as it may—to adjust it to the new connections. And I suppose that will stand” (WWWC 9:89). In the first phase of her career, (Riding) Jackson was engaged in a struggle between Mimetism and Hermogenism—in her terms, between a language of truth and ordinary language—and she considered this struggle a moral and epistemic problem best addressed in the context of literature. As she wrote in Epilogue, the journal she edited with Robert Graves in the 1930s, “The difference between life and literature is the difference between fact and truth, and the difference between littleness and entirety, and between the historically comprehensible and the ultimately knowable” (Epil 2:3).

Letters, sounds, shapes] have an ‘absolute signification’—in other words, a natural one,” he accepts that “the words of the actual lexicon can betray [that absolute standard]” (Genette 205). Thus, even when a name contains descriptive elements that run counter to the character of the thing named, as is the case in the wittily chosen example of “Hermogenes,” the name can still be viable for everyday use. At least for Socrates; Cratylus, however, will not be satisfied. He conceives of representation as the materialization of a necessary, intrinsic bond between thought and reality.

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