Affecting the Logos


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Comparative Literature


This dissertation treats “sophistic” theories of language in relation to the aesthetic, based on the surviving texts of the ancient Greek orators. For them, language is always an aesthetic phenomenon, intimately tied to unconscious sentiment—to affect. It transmits sentiment first and foremost. The project then traces the reemergence of this form of thinking about language in the writings of three French authors: Pascal, Hello, and Quignard. Although divided by several centuries, each of these adopts rhetorical strategies that suppose that language cannot be separated from the aesthetic dimension. They vocally oppose any philosophical attempt to reduce language to a vehicle for the mere communication of sense. These “sophists” open a generalized literary approach to all language.