The Rhetoric of Empiricism: Language and Perception from Locke to I.A. Richards

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Cornell University Press, 1993 - Literary Criticism - 258 pages
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Empiricism favors the visual over the verbal, the literal over the rhetorical, the static over the temporal: This is the standard charge leveled by literary theorists and writers. It is, Jules David Law demonstrates, remarkably misguided. His ambitious and challenging book explores the interplay of language and visual perception at the heart of empiricism. A re-evaluation of the British empiricist tradition from the perspective of contemporary literary theory, it also offers a sustained challenge to theory itself. In failing to grasp the issues confronting early empiricist writers or to be fully aware of their rhetorical strategies, Law says, theory has defined itself needlessly in opposition to empiricism.
In Law's view, the empiricist tradition extends beyond strictly philosophical texts. Beginning with the classical empiricism of Locke, he traces an intellectual path through the works of thinkers such as Berkeley, Burke, Hazlitt, Ruskin, and I. A. Richards, resituating several "romantic" writers along the way. His analyses of these texts reveal the persistent presence of certain metaphors - surface, depth, and reflection - which are central not only to philosophy, but to art criticism and literary criticism as well. Inseparable from accounts of visual experience and yet preoccupied with language at the same time, empiricism appears here in surprisingly complex relation to literary theory.
An illuminating look at the language of reflection and perception in its empirical and critical guises, The Rhetoric of Empiricism will interest readers in the fields of literary history and theory, philosophy, aesthetics, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century studies.

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Molyneuxs Question
Burkes Analogy
The Technique of Surface

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About the author (1993)

Jules David Law is Associate Professor of English at Northwestern University.

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