1st Edition

The Textual Life of Savants Ethnography, Iceland, and the Linguistic Turn

By Gisli Pálsson Copyright 1995
    222 Pages
    by Routledge

    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    First Published in 1995. This book focuses on the role and significance of texts and textualism for anthropology and ethnography and, more specifically, the understanding of particular aspects of Icelandic society and history. The discussion is centred on a range of issues; moving between general social theory and ethnographic details, the immediate present and the distant past, language and production, fieldwork and the act of writing, texts (sagas, novels, and ethnographies) and real life. In each case, however, it draws attention to what may be called a pragmatist approach, a concern with action and agency as they constitute, and are constituted by, social life. Such an approach, I hold, is an important and timely remedy to current textualism, the trendy theoretical tradition often described as the linguistic turn.

    1. Introduction; Part I From Life to Text; 2. The conventional metaphor of cultural translation; 3. The factual, the fictive and the fabulous: novel and ethnography; Part II Times, Lives and Medieval Texts; 4. Sagas, history, and social life; 5. The power of words and the context of witchcraft; Part III Lives, Texts and Modern Realities; 6. Fetishized language, symbolic capital, and social identity; 7. Beyond environmental Orientalism; 8. Conclusions: towards a theory of living discourse;


    Gisli Pálsson

    "Icelanders have always been keenly aware of the cultural importance of language and the social power of texts; the language and literature have been the touchstones of Icelandic identity from the medieval Commonwealth to the modern nation-state. In this masterful and innovative study by anthropologist Gísli Pálsson, the preoccupation of Icelanders with language and texts serves not only as a highly productive point of departure for the anthropological exploration of Icelandic history, society, and culture, but also as a frame of reference for a trenchant critique of textual ideologies and practices in anthropology itself. The range of BThe Textual Life of the Savants/B - from the Sturlunga Saga to the Sexual Life of Savages, ni to novels, orientalism to the dative case - is truly remarkable."