‘And What Has All This To Do With Experimental Writing?’: Words and Ghosts

Leigh Wilson

in Modernism and Magic

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780748627691
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:
‘And What Has All This To Do With Experimental Writing?’: Words and Ghosts

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This chapter looks at the relationship between language and ghosts in a number of thinkers and writers in the early twentieth century. Beginning with Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and moving to C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards’ The Meaning of Meaning via Jeremy Bentham's theory of fictions, the chapter locates an anxiety about the inherent relation between words and magic. This anxiety is often expressed in a repeated return to the ghostly. The chapter goes on to show that literary modernism, from Imagism onwards, shares this sense of the relation between words and ghosts, but uses it to claim the transformative power of language. This is substantiated through readings of Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu, of Mann, The Magic Mountain, and finally of book 12 of Ulysses, ‘Cyclops’, where the parodic evocation of a séance is read not as a debunking of such practices but as a claim for the transforming nature of Joyce's writing.

Keywords: Language; Ludwig Wittgenstein; Ogden and Richards, The Meaning of Meaning; The séance; Imagism; Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu; Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain; James Joyce, Ulysses

Chapter.  14898 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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