Although Donald Davidson has not written extensively about literature as such, his thought has consequences for literary interpretation and theorizing, and it supplies elegant accounts of various topics, such as figuration and rhetoric, that have interested literary critics. His austere account of meaning appears to be an unpromising tool with which to explicate the idiosyncrasies of literary writing. This appearance is an illusion. His individualist account of language emphasizes the role of innovation and linguistic creativity, while accommodating the phenomena that make social-language analyses persuasive. While he agrees with the post-structuralists in rejecting meanings as entities, he also rejects important assumptions about the social nature of language common to most post-structuralists and other contemporary theorists. Most importantly, Davidson provides literary thought with a flexible and commonsense conception of what language is and how to conceptualize literary phenomena.
The first section of this chapter explains some of Davidson's basic ideas about how to cast a theory of meaning as a theory of truth, and explains how that theory connects language to the world. This section discusses the significance of Davidson's making meaning reside in language, rather than in something behind language, and explains why Davidson thinks that having a language requires a shared world.
The second section discusses interpretation. The fundamental idea of Davidsonian interpretation is that interpreting utterances is interpreting speech acts. Thus language interpretation is a special case of action interpretation.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.