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Empirical Truths and Critical Fictions: Locke, Wordsworth, Kant, Freud

Cathy Caruth

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ISBN 10: 0801892694 / ISBN 13: 9780801892691
Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
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Paperback. 182 pages. Dimensions: 9.0in. x 5.5in. x 0.5in.In the prevailing account of English empiricism, Locke conceived of self-understanding as a matter of mere observation, bound closely to the laws of physical perception. English Romantic poets and German critical philosophers challenged Lockes conception, arguing that it failed to account adequately for the power of thought to turn upon itselfto detach itself from the laws of the physical world. Cathy Caruth reinterprets questions at the heart of empiricism by treating Lockes text not simply as philosophical doctrine but also as a narrative in which experience plays an unexpected and uncanny role. Rediscovering traces and transformations of this narrative in Wordsworth, Kant, and Freud, Caruth argues that these authors must not be read only as rejecting or overcoming empirical doctrine but also as reencountering in their own narratives the complex and difficult relation between language and experience. Beginning her inquiry with the moment of empirical self-reflection in Lockes Essay Concerning Human Understandingwhen a mad mother mourns her dead childCaruth asks what it means that empiricism represents itself as an act of mourning and explores why scenes of mourning reappear in later texts such as Wordsworths Prelude, Kants Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and Freuds Civilization. From these readings Caruth traces a recurring narrative of radical loss and the continual displacement of the object or the agent of loss. In Locke it is the mother who mourns her dead child, while in Wordsworth it is the child who mourns the dead mother. In Kant the father murders the son, while in Freud the sons murder the father. As she traces this pattern, Caruth shows that the conceptual claims of each text to move beyond empiricism are implicit claims to move beyond reference. Yet the narrative of death in each text, she argues, leaves a referential residue that cannot be reclaimed by empirical or conceptual logic. Caruth thus reveals, in each of these authors, a tension between the abstraction of a conceptual language freed from reference and the compelling referential resistance of particular stories to abstraction. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Bookseller Inventory # 9780801892691

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Empirical Truths and Critical Fictions: ...

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

Book Type: Paperback

About this title

Synopsis:

In the prevailing account of English empiricism, Locke conceived of self-understanding as a matter of mere observation, bound closely to the laws of physical perception. English Romantic poets and German critical philosophers challenged Locke's conception, arguing that it failed to account adequately for the power of thought to turn upon itself―to detach itself from the laws of the physical world. Cathy Caruth reinterprets questions at the heart of empiricism by treating Locke's text not simply as philosophical doctrine but also as a narrative in which "experience" plays an unexpected and uncanny role. Rediscovering traces and transformations of this narrative in Wordsworth, Kant, and Freud, Caruth argues that these authors must not be read only as rejecting or overcoming empirical doctrine but also as reencountering in their own narratives the complex and difficult relation between language and experience.

Beginning her inquiry with the moment of empirical self-reflection in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding―when a mad mother mourns her dead child―Caruth asks what it means that empiricism represents itself as an act of mourning and explores why scenes of mourning reappear in later texts such as Wordsworth's Prelude, Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and Freud's Civilization. From these readings Caruth traces a recurring narrative of radical loss and the continual displacement of the object or the agent of loss. In Locke it is the mother who mourns her dead child, while in Wordsworth it is the child who mourns the dead mother. In Kant the father murders the son, while in Freud the sons murder the father.

As she traces this pattern, Caruth shows that the conceptual claims of each text to move beyond empiricism are implicit claims to move beyond reference. Yet the narrative of death in each text, she argues, leaves a referential residue that cannot be reclaimed by empirical or conceptual logic. Caruth thus reveals, in each of these authors, a tension between the abstraction of a conceptual language freed from reference and the compelling referential resistance of particular stories to abstraction.

From the Back Cover:

Cathy Caruth reconsiders the role of experience in philosophical, literary, and psychoanalytic texts by tracing the path of its haunting, moving, and often unsettling recurrence across four major writers. Beginning with the figure of the child and the surprising scene of endless mourning in Locke’s text, she addresses his writing not only as philosophical doctrine but also as a narrative in which experience plays an unexpected and uncanny role. Caruth rediscovers traces and transformations of this narrative in Wordsworth, Kant, and Freud and argues that these authors must not be read simply as rejecting or overcoming empirical doctrine but also as reencountering in their own texts the complex and difficult relations among language, experience, and death.

"Exciting and tenacious."― Comparative Literature Studies

"Her aim is nothing less than to rethink the place of experience in the texts which constitute our transcendental and Romantic self-understanding. Caruth's reexamination of the enigma of experience proceeds through painstakingly close readings of some major texts of our modernity."― Wordsworth Circle

"Caruth's absorbing book is powerful enough to challenge and engage one's own predispositions, and to continue very lively debates."― Modern Language Review

"Reanimates this region of the critical terrain... Caruth's book belongs to that special category of works in literary theory that are not only intellectually stimulating but affectively moving."― Modern Language Notes

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