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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 10, Issue 1 (January 2012) : 93-120
Syllepsis Redux and the Rhetoric of Double Agency

Garrett Stewart
Rubric A: The Ethics of Temporality
Rubric B: Then and Now

Abstract

Taking up leading threads from a response by Kent Puckett to the author’s previous essay in this journal on the syntactic figure of syllepsis in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, this article rounds out the exchange by pursuing the continuing literary force of such split grammar — long after Dickens, or the new examples here from Austen and Poe — as it appears in contemporary writers as different as John le Carré and Toni Morrison.  In answering Puckett’s call for an engagement with the mode of doubleness analyzed in William Empson’s Some Versions of Pastoral, it clarifies previous claims regarding an ethics of ambiguity in sylleptic grammar in relation to Giorgio Agamben’s work at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and poetics.  In the process, this response extends the philosophical reverberations of this marked syntactic trope to include the Wittgensteinian line of thought in J. L. Austin and Stanley Cavell, not only in their comments on “ordinary language” but in the sylleptic turns of their own writing.


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