Cosmic Connections

Charles Taylor


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Harvard University Press
21 May 2024
ISBN: 9780674296084
496 pages

From the publisher

A major new work by Charles Taylor: the long-awaited follow-up to The Language Animal, exploring the Romantic poetics central to his theory of language.

The Language Animal, Charles Taylor’s 2016 account of human linguistic capacity, was a revelation, toppling scholarly conventions and illuminating our most fundamental selves. But, as Taylor noted in that work, there was much more to be said. Cosmic Connections continues Taylor’s exploration of Romantic and post-Romantic responses to disenchantment and innovations in language.

Reacting to the fall of cosmic orders that were at once metaphysical and moral, the Romantics used the symbols and music of poetry to recover contact with reality beyond fragmented existence. They sought to overcome disenchantment and groped toward a new meaning of life. Their accomplishments have been extended by post-Romantic generations into the present day. Taylor’s magisterial work takes us from Hölderlin, Novalis, Keats, and Shelley to Hopkins, Rilke, Baudelaire, and Mallarmé, and on to Eliot, Miłosz, and beyond.

In seeking deeper understanding and a different orientation to life, the language of poetry is not merely a pleasurable presentation of doctrines already elaborated elsewhere. Rather, Taylor insists, poetry persuades us through the experience of connection. The resulting conviction is very different from that gained through the force of argument. By its very nature, poetry’s reasoning will often be incomplete, tentative, and enigmatic. But at the same time, its insight is too moving—too obviously true—to be ignored.