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Premodern literary circulation resembles premodern trade in material goods in that it covers the planet less completely than does the modern world-system. Instead, different kinds of literary texts circulated on different scales and in different networks. Short, simple, easily translated and adapted texts such as beast fables and frame-tales, travelled the most widely and crossed the most linguistic borders. Religious scripture, and other highly valued texts, also travelled great distances, thanks to the huge resources occasionally invested in their transmission and translation. By contrast, denser patterns of literary circulation took place in smaller, more clearly-defined, regions. A key index of such regions in pre-modern literature is the adaptation of specific poetic forms, tied to the distinctive prosodic qualities of a major literary language, and requiring sustained investment and effort to carry over successfully into new languages, typically vernaculars culturally dependent to some degree on the source language. This phenomenon is traced through the gradual circulation of two poetic forms, the Arabic qasida and the sonnet.
What is 'truth'? The question that Pilate put to Jesus was laced with dramatic irony. But at a time when what is true and what is untrue have acquired a new currency, the question remains of crucial significance. Is truth a matter of the representation of things which lack truth in themselves? Or of mere coherence? Or is truth a convenient if redundant way of indicating how one's language refers to things outside oneself? In her ambitious new book, Catherine Pickstock addresses these profound questions, arguing that epistemological approaches to truth either fail argumentatively or else offer only vacuity. She advances instead a bold metaphysical and realist appraisal which overcomes the Kantian impasse of 'subjective knowing' and ban on reaching beyond supposedly finite limits. Her book contends that in the end truth cannot be separated from the transcendent reality of the thinking soul.
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