Literary Voice

The Calling of Jonah

By Donald Wesling & Tadeusz Slawek

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791426289, 238 pages, August 1995
Hardcover : 9780791426272, 238 pages, August 1995

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Table of contents


Toward a Philosophy of Literary Voice

Person as Voice: Thinking about a Metaphor

Three Elements of a Comprehensive Philosophy of Literary Voice

A History/Theory of the Relation of Voice to Person

A Theory of Communicative Context

A Stylistics Based on Speech Orientation

The Speaking Subject: Our Most Comprehensive Premise as Derived from Emile Benveniste and Julia Kristeva

Dialogism, Speaking Subject, and the Critique of Existing Theory of Voice

Before Grammatology

After (and beyond) Grammatology

Fish and Bird: Minimal Articulation

The Idea of the Call

Regional Intentionality

The Chasm of the Inarticulate


Exclamations, Cries, and Other Transgressions


Early Modern Speaking Subjects

Grammatical and Legal Position of the Speaker: John Donne and René Descartes

Scenes of Parting: Donne and the Metaphysical Poets

Bardic Voice: Vestiges of the Oral and the National

The Voice of the Living God in the Delphic Oracle and the Book of Jonah

Vestiges of the Oral and the National:Eighteenth-Century Origins of the Bardic in England

The Exiled Voice in Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz

Phenomenology of Exile and Voice

Bardic Voice and the Exiled Epilogue

Silencing of Voice

Sociology of the Polish Fatherland

Vachel Lindsay and American Bardic

De-tonation: Another Mode of the Minimal

De-Tonation in Nineteenth-Century Theory: Friedrich Nietzsche

The Passage: Jacques Derrida

The Periphery: Henri Meschonnic

Reading the De-toned Text

Voice Determinate and Indeterminate

Postmodern Indetermine Voice


Strong De-tonation

Uncanny De-tonation

For the Subject



This response to Derrida's critique of the spoken uses dozens of examples in four languages to explore the voice that is in writing.


Jacques Derrida has ably analyzed the writing that is in speaking, but this reply to his work analyzes the speaking that is in writing. This book defends and illustrates literary voice against modern philosophy's critique of the spoken, and in the light of Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogism and Henri Meschonnic's studies on subjectivity in rhythmic language. The authors find literary voice to be maximal in bardic speech, where the author speaks for the nation. This full voice stands between the two minimums of the body (grunts and sighs and birdsong), and the material text (loss of logic, narrative, and social tones in Nietzsche and in the American LANGUAGE poets).

Donald Wesling is Professor of English Literature at the University of California, San Diego, Tadeusz Sawek is Professor of English Literature and Critical Theory at the English Institute, University of Silesia in Poland.


"The work draws on poetry, on bardic traditions, on philosophy and linguistics, and on literary theory to develop a compelling argument for the value of 'literary voice.' ...the book stresses the social dimensions of literature, writing, and speaking. This emphasis carries political implications, especially for people whose voices have been ignored... So the book is about literary voice, about dialogues, about speaking subjects (historically situated), about 'exile,' and about the ethical implications of joining dialogues. Hence the importance of Jonah as a metaphor for resistance, language and dialogue." — Lloyd Kramer, University of North Carolina

"The authors cover a huge field of literary criticism and related fields, past and present, relevant to their concern with literary 'voice' and person. Thoroughly at home in post-post-modern criticism and in deconstruction, they are aware of other scholarly work which makes it possible to assess these traditions from the outside and to identify some of their shortfalls. This book opens new and challenging perspectives."—Walter J. Ong, Saint Louis University