Originally published in 1991, this book analyses the relation between writing and ethics in a number of social contexts – in politics, as language discloses its connections to the institutions of totalitarianism and democracy; in the university, as contemporary scholarly ideals find an uncomfortably accurate representation in the stylistic forms of academic writing; in daily social practice, ranging from the status of truth in journalistic writing to the connection between pronouns and affirmative action; and finally in the ethical structure of language itself.
‘Berel Lang’s superb essays on the often tricky relationships between language and ethics demonstrate that matters of moral import – whether the ‘correctness’ of Black English or the linguistic dimensions of genocide – can be approached in a manner that is at once philosophically rigorous and enjoyable to read.’ Herbert S. Lindenberger, Stanford University
‘Berel Lang is a thoughtful and though-provoking writer – civilized, lucid, and learned. Her writes about important subjects, and he stimulates one to pleased agreement and useful dissent.’ Irving Howe
‘No one writes with more care and decency about language than Berel Lang. (The book) maintains a high level of discrimination throughout, whether Lang is writing about gender pronouns or the Nazi genocide. It is a civilized and civilizing book.’ Richard Ohmann, Wesleyan University
Part 1: The Ethics of Language 1. Strunk, White, and Grammar as Morality 2. Pre-Literacy, Post-Literacy, and the Cunning of History 3. The Rights of Black English 4. Anti-Anti-Obscenity 5. Politics and the New History of Truth 6. Pronouns and Affirmative Action Part 2: Rewriting in the Academy 7. Academics and the English Language 8. The New Scholasticism 9. The Humanities in American Life 10. Tolerance and Its Discontents: Teaching the Holocaust 11. About the Dead, Speak _Only _Mainly _Some _No Good 12. Normal Academic Progress Part 3: Politics at More Than Its Word 13. Politics and the Death of Language: Orwell’s Newspeak 14. Virtue as a Literary Form: Orwell’s Art 15. Human Nature and Political Artifact 16. The Body Impolitic: Thinking Thoreau 17. Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Evil 18. Language and Genocide