Fictions of Fact and Value: The Erasure of Logical Positivism in American Literature, 1945-1975

ISBN : 9780199890408

Michael LeMahieu
256 ページ
165 x 237 mm

Fictions of Fact and Value argues that the philosophy of logical positivism, considered the antithesis of literary postmodernism, exerts a determining influence on the development of American fiction in the three decades following 1945 in what amounts to a constitutive encounter between literature and philosophy at mid-century: after the end of the modernism, as it was traditionally conceived, but prior to the rise of postmodernism, as it came to be known. Two particular postwar literary preoccupations derive from logical positivist philosophy: the fact/value problem and the correlative distinction between sense and nonsense. Yet even as postwar writers responded to logical positivism as a threat to the imagination, their works often manifest its influence, particularly with regard to "emotive" or "meaningless" terms. Logical positivist philosophy appears tactically in works of fiction in order to advance aesthetic strategies. Far from a straightforward history of ideas, Fictions of Fact and Value charts a genealogy that is often erased in the very texts where it registers and disowned by the very authors that it includes. LeMahieu complicates a predominant narrative of intellectual history in which a liberating postmodernism triumphs over a reactionary positivism by historicizing the literary response to positivism in works by John Barth, Saul Bellow, Don DeLillo, Iris Murdoch, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Pynchon, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The centrality of the fact/value problem to both positivism and postmodernism demands a rethinking of postwar literary history.


"Postwar Fiction, the Fact/Value Problem, and the Literary Response to Logical Positivism"
Chapter One
"Indigestible Residues"
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Aesthetic Negativism, and the Incompleteness of Logical Positivism
Chapter Two
"Negative Appearance"
Flannery O'Connor, the Fact/Value Problem, and the Threat of Logical Positivism
Chapter Three
"Contradictory Feelings"
John Barth, Non-Mystical Value-Thinking, and the Exhaustion of Logical Positivism
Chapter Four
"Eternal Things"
Saul Bellow, the Infinite Longings of the Soul, and the Shortcomings of Logical Positivism
Chapter Five
"Illogical Negativism"
Thomas Pynchon, the Critique of Modernism, and the Erasure of Logical Positivism


Michael LeMahieu is Assistant Professor of English at Clemson University.