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The limits of expression: language, poetry, thought

Kolaiti, P.; (2010) The limits of expression: language, poetry, thought. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The following analysis takes as its starting point a divergence in views on what philosophers and linguists call ‘effability’ or ‘expressibility’ (the extent to which it is possible, through the use of a public language, to make one’s thoughts available to others). While philosophers and linguists (Searle, Katz, Recanati) defend stronger or weaker forms of effability, the ‘struggle of the poet to defeat the ineffable’ is a recurring motif in most 20th century critical thinking. In trying to explain this apparent divergence, I reconsider a wide range of interdisciplinary issues of particular interest to linguists, psychologists, literary theorists and philosophers of art; these include the limits of linguistic expression, the role of perceptual representations in our mental tapestry, the existence or otherwise of a property of literariness or essence of art, the distinctiveness of the poetic/ artistic mind and the nature of aesthetic experience. In due course, my discussion brings to light a novel account of the possible evolutionary origins of art and sketches an empirically tractable model of aesthetic experience that lend us significant insight on the actual mental goings-on behind the poet’s discontent with language. In view of the distinct ways in which, as it will be argued, an artistic mind is creative and the psycho-cognitive particularities of the kind of action art is, the ‘struggle of the poet to defeat the ineffable’ is soon ranked as a problem of an entirely different order than had been previously thought. The thesis takes the thread from the empirical observation that the limitations of speaking out the contents of the mind are so much more intensely felt in the literary mentality, in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of this very mentality, of the kind of action art is and the mind that brings it to light.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The limits of expression: language, poetry, thought
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of) > Linguistics

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