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This review is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

PERPETUUM MOBILE Donald C. Freeman (ed), Essays in Modern Stylistics (Methuen) £15, paperback £6.95

This is the second volume of its kind edited by Donald C. Freeman. His previous collection (Linguistics and Literary Style, 1970) was published at a time when modern linguistics was beginning to press its claim as a powerful new discipline of literary study, equipped to 'read' texts in ways undreamt of by traditional criticism. This promise was viewed as more of a threat by those - like the doughty F. W. Bateson - who set up to defend the cultural values of English against such encroachments of scientistic rigour. The quarrel is by no means dead, but it has at least subsided to a point where linguists can pursue their more specialized enquiries without adopting the defensive tone - and the sometimes overreaching claims - which marked that early phase. Freeman's latest volume takes stock of this new situation and provides a fair sampling of recent work in the field. In particular it focuses on various developments of Chomsky's transformational generative theory, as applied not only to matters of syntax but to all the constituents of literary style, meaning and structure. The theory has been subject to manifold revisions over the past twenty years, some of them proposed by Chomsky himself while others - often more radical - have come from linguists trained up on his example. The result has been a rich and productive debate, along with a degree of confusion as to the precise bearing of certain cardinal terms and distinctions.

Freeman's anthology exhibits both ...


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