Humanities Forum: Ed Foster, "Language and the Meaninglessness of Meaning: Necessities for Poetry"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 ( 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm )

Location: Morton 324

Humanities Forum: Ed Foster (Professor of History, Literature)
“Language and the Meaninglessness of Meaning: Necessities for Poetry"

In the search for things that are "true" or "correct" – because, for instance, these might prove "useful" or, it may be, because they seem to resolve some ethical dilemma – one may find one's self entangled in linguistic structures that appear to be adequate, perhaps even self-validating. One might then, however, be blind to a myriad of other "truths." Literature, and poetry in particular, serves a crucial function by upending linguistic structures and proposing alternative conclusions and procedures, new ways of organizing and understanding information and observations. If literature, collectively, does its work, even the most conservative or reactionary among us must remain aware that we exist in an ocean of words in which currents can shift at any moment. But having said this, one might then ask whether this ocean is also strictly controlled by, or limited to, the words of which it is constituted. Or are other forces at work? To suggest that there might be could lead to notions and questions involving the “transcendental,” itself at present an often disparaged term. And yet . . .

Ed Foster is the founding editor of Talisman House, Publishers, LLC. The author or editor of nearly forty books, including ten volumes of his poetry, he has seen his work translated into Chinese, Russian, Turkish, and various other languages. The former director of what was then known as the Division of Humanities and Social Science, the predecessor to CAL, he is a professor of American Studies and teaches courses in film, American religion, and Modernism in the arts.