A History of 'The History of the Language'

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English (Scripps)

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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | History


In his work on the archaeology of the human sciences, Michel Foucault asserted that the shift from the Classical period to the Modern period (both terms being used with specific delimitations), took place around the end of the eighteenth century. The new order of things, the new structure of knowledge, he argued, was arranged not in relation to the Classical problem of Representation, but to the Modern problem of History. According to Foucault, across a number of apparently different fields of knowledge there can be traced a unifying theme: the appearance of historicity. As he put it, 'a profound historicity penetrates into the heart of things, isolates and defines them in their own coherence, imposes upon them the forms of order implied by the continuity of time’ (Foucault, 1974, p. xxiii). And with the appearance of historicity, there follows the appearance of new disciplines, as ‘words, beings, and objects of need’, begin to take their place within new fields, within ‘those now familiar forms of knowledge that we have called, since the nineteenth century, philology, biology, and economics’ (Foucault, 1974, p. 220).


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© 1986 Elsevier Ltd.

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