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This article is taken from PN Review 48, Volume 12 Number 4, March - April 1986.

Writing and Difference: For Continuity Fred Inglis

It is of course the occupation of chiliasts to claim that the end of the world, or at least of the epoch, is louring over us at the present, and a long tradition in the teaching of English has favoured chiliasm. By the same tokens, English as a discipline of thought (in the phrase) has famously fought for and won a dominant place as a 'totalizing' theory of itself and the adjacent discourses of humanism. However one tells the tale of its historical formation - as a doctrine, that is, of domination or redemption - it has powerfully affirmed a characteristic intertwining in the modern intellectual identity of a resonant ontology and a marked moral motivation.

No doubt it is true that such an identity also characterizes the writing of English academic history, psychology, philosophy, and so forth, and the mutuality of these styles and forms of thought is something I shall go back to. But in both justice and pretension, English has arrogated to itself a distinctive and comprehensive theory of the relation between narrative and identity, language and the polity, relative meaning and the possibility of naturalism. These connections require its practitioners to be alive to day-to-day upheavals in storytelling in a way other human scientists, abstracted by the demands of grand theory or of methodological individualism, are not.

Such upheavals have been in all senses critical since the end of World War One or so. It has, after all, been one hell ...


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