The Words of Others From Quotations to Culture Gary Saul Morson

Publication date:
28 Jun 2011
Yale University Press
352 pages: 210 x 140 x 27mm
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In this lively gambol through the history of quotations and quotation books, Gary Saul Morson traces our enduring fascination with the words of others. Ranging from the remote past to the present, he explores the formation, development, and significance of quotations, while exploring the "verbal museums" in which they have been collected and displayed - commonplace books, treasuries, and anthologies.

In his trademark clear, witty, and provocative style, Morson invites readers to share his delight in the shortest literary genres. The author defines what makes a quote quotable, as well as the (unexpected) differences between quotation and misquotation. He describes how quotations form, transform, and may eventually become idioms. How much of language itself is the residue of former quotations? Using amusing examples of "famous last words" and epitaphs, Morson also demonstrates how authorship and occasion can be an intrinsic part of a quotation. Weaving in hundreds of intriguing quotations, common and unusual, Morson explores how the words of others constitute essential elements in the formation of a culture and of the self within that culture. In so doing, he provides a living demonstration of that very process, captured in the pages of this extraordinary new book.

Gary Saul Morson is Frances Hooper Professor of the Arts and Humanities, Professor of Slavic Languages, Northwestern University. He is an award-winning author of eight previous books. He lives in Evanston, IL.

"Gary Saul Morson has written a subtle, engaging and occasionally provocative study of quotations and the ways in which they are displayed and preserved."—Henry Hitchings, Times Literary Supplement

"The pleasure in the book comes from its essayistic rambles around the subject, the witty illustrations, and the enjoyment that the author clearly takes in what he’s doing... I was well enough disposed before I came to page 137. On that page I discovered that Morson had gone to some length to exculpate me from an alleged misquotation (as if I would). What an excellent book this is, I concluded. If Professor Morson wants a quote for the back cover of the paperback, I’m his man."—John Sutherland, Literary Review

"Morson’s gift in this book is to turn the unapparent into apparent through – again – a detailed and thoughtful process of discussion and explanation... It all adds up to an enlightening and exciting course in the what, why and how of quotation, and the book achieves the rare result of altering the way one looks at what is right in front of one’s nose."—Douglas Cowie, Times Higher Education