The first two of the doctrines lying at the core of hermetic theorizing — the belief that language has reference only to itself and the denial of the possibility of determining the meaning of discourse — are still oddly but widely believed to be the indisputable consequences of Ferdinand de Saussure’s analysis of language. One suspects that many of those who have left the world influential modes of thought about any matter of importance would be astonished to know how many of what they thought to be perspicuous observations have been misunderstood or transmogrified. But Saussure would have more reason to be surprised than most, even though he might recognize that some of the blame falls to him. After all, he never put his insights into final form but left their transmission to the uncertain mercies of those who heard his lectures. Perhaps there is a significant difference between what Saussure would like to have published and the lecture notes edited and issued as the Cours Linguistique General; the Cours may be the mere shadow of what Saussure could have given to the world. But that shadow is in most respects a very definite one whose outline, one should think, could hardly be misinterpreted.


Framework Argument Literary Text Discourse Community Interpretive Strategy Paradise Lost 
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Copyright information

© Wendell V. Harris 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA

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