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Object LessonsThe Novel As a Theory of Reference$
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Jami Bartlett

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226369655

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226369792.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Object Lessons

Jami Bartlett

University of Chicago Press

Opening with an analysis of the first chapter of Dickens’s Great Expectations, this introduction presents the case for a reading of the realist novel informed by analyses of reference in the philosophy of language. Theories of the novel by Van Ghent, Brooks, Scarry, Woloch, and Lynch are depicted as grounded in a Millian theory of reference, and are developed alongside a spectrum of theories of reference in the philosophy of language, from philosophers Anscombe and Kelly, who are oriented phenomenologically, to Russell, Searle, Strawson, and Quine, who are oriented analytically. It is argued that an attention to the syntax of descriptions like that we see in the philosophy of language reveals that the logic of referring terms in Dickens has gone unread by literary critics of the novel, who, in missing the significance of Russell’s insights on proper names, misconstrue the grammatical order of Dickens’s language, which is explicitly problematizing the act of referring, as positing an easy equivalence of words and objects.

Keywords:   Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Anscombe, Elaine Scarry, syntax, grammar, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, proper names

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