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This chapter highlights how Cavell’s pioneering interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations in “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy” bears on literary studies. It traces an influential misreading of the Investigations deriving from Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition (1979) whose understanding of “language-games” has become foundational to the conception of postmodern literature put forth by leading literary scholars, even as it relies on an unacknowledged simplification of how Wittgenstein understands the linked concepts of “language-games” and “rules” in the Investigations.
Cavell’s “Availability” essay exposes the problems with this postmodern reading of Wittgenstein. As Cavell makes clear, Wittgenstein compares the “rules” of language to “moves in a game” in part because he wishes to emphasize the differences between these two cases: unlike those of, say, a board game, the rules of “everyday language” cannot be exhaustively listed or written down, and yet, “the absence of such a structure in no way impairs its [i.e., language’s] functioning.” For this reason, as the “Availability” essay shows, “rules” turn out to be a concept of only secondary importance within the Investigations; rather, language-games emerge against the backdrop of what Wittgenstein calls “forms of life” or, elsewhere, “the natural history of human beings.”
This chapter examines the legacy of the Chicago Renaissance (1910–25) by focusing on the relationship between writers Sherwood Anderson and Floyd Dell. The chapter pays special attention to Dell’s late-life evaluation of Anderson – Anderson died in 1941, while Dell lived until 1969 – and draws extensively from Dell’s papers at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which underscore his hostility toward literary modernism as well as his associated dislike of Anderson. Although in the 1910s and 1920s, Dell was known as a bohemian writer/editor and leftist political figure, in later years, he became more conservative and tended to stress his allegiance to more traditional literary forms – in particular, realism – and to downplay his championship of the “new.” This tension between realism and modernism is evident in Dell’s ambivalent response to Winesburg, Ohio (1919), Anderson’s modernist-oriented portrayal of life in a small, Ohio town. The article also shows how these tensions may be seen in Chicago literature written after the Renaissance and notes that realism remained the dominant mode of representation during the 1930s and 1940s.
The little magazines Poetry: A Magazine of Verse and the Little Review were instrumental in promoting the Chicago Literary Renaissance and Chicago modernism. I investigate their central roles, reading these magazines as privileged sites of modern cultural production and reception as well as important cultural objects in their own right. First, I explain how these magazines relied on local benefactors and advertising to jostle for position among Chicago’s musical, visual, and theatrical arts, as well as within a periodical field that included such other established Chicago magazines as The Dial. I then consider the literary presence of Chicago in both magazines, incorporating digital humanities methodologies to locate Chicago-based contributors (including Carl Sandburg and Sherwood Anderson, along with lesser-known figures) and to identify the many poems and prose pieces associated with the city – highlighting individual literary achievements as well as shared images and tropes.
A key moment in the history of the dynamic between New Orleans and the major cultural hubs of the Northeast and Europe occurred with the emergence of a “little” magazine in 1921 called the Double Dealer, which published the literary figures who would define the aesthetic and cultural movement known as modernism. The final issues of the magazine gave significant exposure to a writer who was, until then, little known – William Faulkner. The magazine also published Sherwood Anderson, Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, and Thornton Wilder. Though it faltered and finally folded after just a handful of years, it managed to link New Orleans to the most elite cultural channels of the wider world in roughly the same moment that the indigenous music of the city – jazz – came to widespread recognition.
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