Obscure Language,
Unclear Literature
Theory & Practice from Quintilian
to the Enlightenment

By Paivi Mehtonen
Translated From the Finnish By Robert MacGilleon
December 2003
The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
ISBN: 9514109112
228 pages, 6 " x 9 "
$115.00 Paper Original

This book vigorously confronts an intractable problem of literary study: the early attempts to articulate what is conceived as being obscure, unsayable, difficult: Unwilling to accept the ubiquitous explanation of obscurity as a characteristic of modern and postmodern writing only, Mehtonen traces the continuity of theories within the pre-modern formation of literary study in the arts of poetics, rhetoric, grammar and dialectic.

This volume is a theoretically and historically sophisticated attempt to make sense of the connections between critical, stylistic and philosophical debates. It will be welcomed by readers with an interest in literary theory, the history of ideas and concepts, and pre-nineteenth-century study of language.

Contents include: Towards a Conceptual History of Obscurity, The Function of Language, The Questionable Light of Grammar in Ancient Debate, Rhetoric: Does Clarity of Purpose Justify Obscurity of Means?, Blessed Obscurity: Holy Writ and Readership, Medieval Poetics, Dialectic and Vision, Towards Modern Obscurantism, Early Modern Skiagraphies, Metapoetics: Baumgarten and Obscuritas aesthetica, The Forgotten Rhetoric of Obscurity: Campbell.

Literature; Philosophy

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