Saussure and his Interpreters(2001. 2nd edn 2003)

   •Roy Harris

Hardcover: 264 pages
ISBN: 0748617833

This book is the first major reassessment of the reception of Saussure’s ideas in the academic world of the 20th century. It is well known that Saussure’s teaching profoundly influenced developments in such diverse fields as linguistics, anthropology, psychology and literary studies. But what exactly were Saussure’s views taken to be by his interpreters? How well were Saussure’s ideas understood by those who took them up. Or how badly misunderstood, and why? Each chapter focuses on one particular interpreter of Saussure’s work, but many others are mentioned in context for purposes of comparison. Attention is drawn to connexions and disparities between their interpretations. Those whose interpretations are examined in detail include Bloomfield, Hjelmslev, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Chomsky, Barthes and Derrida. In an important supplement to the second edition, account is taken of recently found notes in Saussure’s hand. This discovery re-opens the whole question of the extent to which the text posthumously published in 1916 accurately reflects the stage that Saussure’s thinking had reached by the time of his death.

– ‘by far the best book on the heritage of Saussure’: Paul Cobley, London Metropolitan University


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© Roy Harris, Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics, Oxford, 2010-2015