Rowman and Littlefield International
Words Underway

Words Underway

Continental Philosophy of Language

By Carolyn Culbertson

Publication Date: Jun 2019

Pages 112

Hardback 9781786608048
Paperback 9781786608055
Ebook 9781786608062
Not available for pre-order
Words Underway offers the first full account of the important contributions the Continental tradition has made to the philosophy of language. Carolyn Culbertson examines the vital work of a range of thinkers, including Heidegger, Gadamer, Blanchot, and Kristeva. The book argues that Continental theorists are particularly helpful in recognizing our unique potential for becoming alienated from some discourse. At the same time, Culbertson argues that Continental philosophy of language tends not to treat the alienated relationship to language as something absolute. For most Continental theorists, at least, language is a living system, that is, a system maintained by undergoing constant expansion and transformation by language users. The book goes on to explore the attention Continental theorists have given to the way that forms of political power, for example gender dynamics in communication, can sometimes thwart this process and thus reinforce alienation. This book will transform the reader’s sense of what the philosophy of language is about and will attract the attention of students and scholars of both philosophy of language and the Continental tradition.

Introduction / 1. Walker Percy, Phenomenology, and the Mystery of Language / 2. Words That Neither Reveal nor Conceal: The Philosophical Depths of Literary Theory / 3. Rethinking Women’s Silence: Contributions from Continental Feminism / 4. Language as Habitat: Doing Justice to Experiences of Linguistic Alienation / 5. Words Underway: The Ethics of Linguistic Life / Bibliography / Index
Culbertson’s book breaks new ground in offering a comprehensive treatment of the philosophy of language from a Continental perspective, not simply a survey of representative authors but a unique thematic path for new directions that exceed standard assumptions: how normative and developmental elements take precedence over mere descriptive accounts of linguistic formats; how the experience of alienation is a key factor in human discourse and development; how creative openness is an ever-ready impetus in language; how constraining and liberating forces both contribute to identity formation and cultural possibilities. Highly recommended.
Lawrence J. Hatab, Louis I. Jaffe Professor of Philosophy, Old Dominion University
Culbertson makes a clear and convincing argument for the importance of continental philosophy of language to contemporary thought, an argument that is accessible to beginners and useful to experts. Rather than surveying the entire field, she begins with Heidegger and Gadamer to establish the inescapable ways that language and existence are interwoven. She then complicates and enriches this picture by examining how continental thinkers address moments of “alienation” from language, from the traumas of the Holocaust, to the challenges of gender (Butler), from the silences of depression (Kristeva) to the agonies of colonialism (Derrida). She closes by returning to Heidegger and the questions posed at the beginning, so that the reader can see why it makes sense to speak of continental philosophy as a distinctive tradition. Her book is an important contribution to scholarship and to the classroom.
Meili Steele, Professor of English Language and Literature, University of South Carolina
Focusing on linguistic alienation, Words Underway makes a persuasive case for the importance of continental thought for language philosophy. Lucidly argued, it counters linguistic determinism by showcasing the disclosive and transformative force of language, through an original analysis of, among others, Heidegger, Gadamer, Derrida, Butler, and Kristeva. It breaks new ground by bringing together phenomenological and hermeneutical approaches to language with feminist philosophy.
Krzysztof Ziarek, Professor of Comparative Literature, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Words Underway calls for developing continental philosophies of language, and in doing so opens paths for philosophers to engage language beyond its characterization as a rational tool for the articulation of experience, for representation, or as a mere system of meanings. Culbertson’s original work not only shows that to be human is for us to live in language but draws one back to it as elemental for understanding existing in and through alterity.
Alejandro Vallega, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Oregon
Carolyn Culbertson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Florida Gulf Coast University. She has published articles in journals including Southwest Philosophy Review, International Journal for Feminist Bioethics, Continental Philosophy Review, Philosophy Today and Comparative and Continental Philosophy Journal.

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