Talking Heads

Language, Metalanguage, and the Semiotics of Subjectivity

Talking Heads

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 3 figures, 5 tables Published: December 1997

Author: Benjamin Lee

Subjects
Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Linguistics, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

In Talking Heads, Benjamin Lee situates himself at the convergence of multiple disciplines: philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, and literary theory. He offers a nuanced exploration of the central questions shared by these disciplines during the modern era—questions regarding the relations between language, subjectivity, community, and the external world. Scholars in each discipline approach these questions from significantly different angles; in seeking to identify and define the intersection of these angles, Lee argues for the development of a new sense of subjectivity, a construct that has repercussions of immense importance beyond the humanities and into the area of politics.
Talking Heads synthesizes the views and works of a breathtaking range of the most influential modern theorists of the humanities and social sciences, including Austin, Searle, Derrida, Jakobson, Bakhtin, Wittgenstein, Peirce, Frege, Kripke, Donnellan, Putnam, Saussure, and Whorf. After illuminating these many strands of thought, Lee moves beyond disciplinary biases and re-embeds within the context of the public sphere the questions of subjectivity and language raised by these theorists. In his examination of how subjectivity relates not just to grammatical patterns but also to the specific social institutions in which these patterns develop and are sustained, Lee discusses such topics as the concept of public opinion and the emergence of Western nation-states.

Praise

“Benjamin Lee situates himself at the convergence of multiple disciplines; philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, and literary theory. He offers a nuanced exploration of the central questions shared by these disciplines during the modern era. . . . Lee moves beyond disciplinary biases and re-embeds, within the context of the public sphere, the questions of subjectivity and language raised by these theorists.” — Social Semiotics

“Lee’s scholarship is top-notch, and the remarkable ease with which he moves across disciplinary boundaries enables him to address old and vexing questions in an illuminating way.” — Daniel F. Suslak , American Ethnologist

“The particular virtue of Talking Heads is its treatment of several Western forms of discourse as objects of ethnographic inquiry. Deconstructionists, psychological anthropologists, political anthropologists, and all those concerned with language and subjectivity will gain much from this masterful book.” — James M. Wilce , American Anthropology

“This book has much to offer linguists. It provides a good discussion of contemporary work on indexicality in linguistics and the philosophy of language, and of the relationship of this work to debates in the first half of the twentieth century. It also offers a detailed discussion of the discovery of indexicality by Peirce and its appliation to linguistic analysis in the work of Jakobson and Silverstein.” — Asif Agha , Anthropological Linguistics

"Talking Heads will make a major contribution to several lines of concern presently animating new thinking and research across a wide spectrum of the human and social sciences. — Michael Holquist, Yale University

"Lee’s extraordinary mastery of so many different domains enables him to cross back and forth over the usual borders and boundaries, and to demonstrate to us that each domain of specialized knowledge has important things to say about the issues he focuses on, things which cannot be ignored if we hope to achieve a full understanding of them." — Thomas McCarthy, Northwestern University

"This is a brilliant book. It traverses the no-man’s land between contemporary disciplines, serving to create an intellectual commerce between usually isolated areas, principally philosophy, linguistic anthropology, and literary criticism, but also psychology, political science, sociology, and history." — Greg Urban, University of Pennsylvania

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Benjamin Lee is Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and co-director of the Center for Transcultural Studies in Chicago.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2015-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2006-7
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