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Linguistic Turns, 1890-1950Writing on Language as Social Theory$
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Ken Hirschkop

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198745778

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198745778.001.0001

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Myth You Can Believe In

Myth You Can Believe In

(Ernst Cassirer, Viktor Shklovskii, Velimir Khlebnikov, Roman Jakobson, Benjamin)

(p.184) 7 Myth You Can Believe In
Linguistic Turns, 1890-1950

Ken Hirschkop

Oxford University Press

Chapter 7 discusses the enthusiasts of myth, writers who argue that it represents the lifeblood of language without which any polity is doomed. It begins with a discussion of Ernst Cassirer’s theory of myth, before turning to the Russian Formalists and Futurists—ready to resurrect the word—and concluding with Walter Benjamin’s insistence on the power and magic of pure language. For Walter Benjamin, for Viktor Shklovskii and many of his Futurist brethren, the ‘word as such’ has to be rescued from the deadening ‘bourgeois’ language of the present. Language is out of whack, but what has distorted it is precisely its misuse as a mere tool of communication, against which one has to defend language as naming. The problem is not, according to these writers, that myth threatens the liberal polity, but that liberalism itself, embodied in the deadening language of public life, threatens democracy.

Keywords:   Ernst Cassirer, Viktor Shklovskii, Velimir Khlebnikov, Roman Jakobson, Walter Benjamin, names, myth, Futurism, Formalism, modernism

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