On Puns

On Puns : The Foundation of Letters

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"In the beginning was the pun." Samuel Beckett's sardonic revision of Scripture carries an insight that this collection of essays seeks to develop. The pun is traditionally labelled as "the lowest form of wit." To defend puns, then, would be to show that it can be an amusing and revealing form of cleverness, instances of genuine wit. The essays in this collection take a different view, exploring ways in which puns reveal the fundamental workings of language. These essays touch upon a wide range of literary examples, from the constitutive role of word play in classical literature and in late medieval poetry to the semantic aspects of rhyme and the implication of "Finnegans Wake"'s exploitation of puns and portmanteau words. They give special attention to the importance of puns as revealed in new developments in psychoanalysis - in the work of Lacan, Abraham and Torok, and in contemporary rereadings of Freud's case histories - and to what deconstruction suggests about the powerful role of puns in concept formation.
Jonathan Culler's deductions draw out the implications of this wide-ranging collection and suggest that taking puns seriously might lead us to think differently about language.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 154 x 228 x 22mm | 359.99g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0631158936
  • 9780631158936

Table of contents

1. JONATHAN CULLER (Dept of English, Cornell) The Call of the Phoneme: Introduction. ; 2. Frederick Ahl (Classics Dept, Cornell University) Ars Est Caelare Artem (Art in Puns and Anagrams Engraved) ; 3. R M Shoaf (English Dept, University of Florida) The Play of Puns in Late Middle English Poetry: Concerning Juxtology. ; 4. Krystian Czerniecki (English Dept, Cornell) The Jest Disjested: Perspectives on History in Henry V. ; 5. Debra Fried (English Dept, Cornell) Rhyme Puns. ; 6. Joel Fineman (English Dept, Univ of California, Berkeley) "The Pas de Calais". Freud, the Transference, and the Sense of Woman's Humor. ; 7. Avital Ronell (English Dept, Berkeley) Le Sujet Suppositaire: Freud and Rat Man. ; 8. Derek Attridge (English Dept, Rutgers) Unpacking the Portmanteau, or Who's Afraid of Finnegans Wake? ; 9. Francoise Meltzer (Romance Languages & Lit Dept, Chicago) Eat Your Dasein: Lacan's Self-Consuming Puns. ; 10. Gregory Ulmer (English Dept, University of Florida) The Puncept in Grammatology. ;;
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