Object Lessons: The Novel as a Theory of Reference
University of Chicago Press
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Object Lessons explores a fundamental question about literary realism: How can language evoke that which is not language and render objects as real entities? Drawing on theories of reference in the philosophy of language, Jami Bartlett examines novels by George Meredith, William Makepeace Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Iris Murdoch that provide allegories of language use in their descriptions, characters, and plots. Bartlett shows how these authors depict the philosophical complexities of reference by writing through and about referring terms, the names and descriptions that allow us to “see” objects. At the same time, she explores what it is for words to have meaning and delves into the conditions under which a reference can be understood. Ultimately, Object Lessons reveals not only how novels make references, but also how they are about referring.
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