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This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

OPEN BRACKETS Colin Falck, Myth Truth and Literature: Towards a true post-modernism (CUP) £10.95

The meta-mythology of myth has dominated literary and cultural analysis too long and some of us are sick and tired of the dead leaves falling from The Golden Bough. And 'post-modernism' is a term encountered so often that semantic satiation has drained it of meaning. So a book that includes 'myth' in its title and promises 'a true post-modernism' in its subtitle awakens limited expectation of pleasure and illumination. Don't be put off: this short treatise is an interesting exploration of the relations between poetry and language at large and between language and the fundamental properties of human consciousness.

Falck begins with a decisive refutation of so-called 'post-Saussurean' theory. He points out, as have others, that Saussure's theoretical linguistics entails that language is a closed system - so that discourse cannot have extra-linguistic reference, meaning and truth - only if one confuses the system of language with its use on particular occasions and the methodological constraints upon linguistics with constraints upon language itself. One is grateful to Falck for arguing this so clearly though it is annoying that the present state of literary studies should oblige him to re-state the obvious. His repudiation of system-centred post-Saussurean linguistics does not signal a return to the opposite error of item-centred ('Fido-fido') linguistics, with a one-one relationship between a language composed essentially of names and a pre-formed and pre-formatted extra-linguistic reality. Nevertheless he emphasizes the extent to which linguistic expression is rooted in extra-linguistic reality: discourses owe their particular meanings ...

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