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Keywords..Language is a spaceship that travels with meaning

Keywords..Language is a spaceship that travels with meaning

Cairo: “The Gulf”

Raymond Williams does not have a presence in Arab culture, equal to or even close to the famous names such as Barthes, Foucault or Derrida in France, and to a lesser extent Paul de Man and Stanley Fish in America, and only two of his more than twenty books have been translated for him, one of which is « Methods of Modernity”, a compilation of articles published posthumously, and the other book, “The Drama from Ibsen to Brecht”, although he was one of the most important contemporary English critics and professor of drama at Cambridge University until his retirement in 1983.

Williams’ role was decisive in various fields of writing and theorizing, in addition to political work and transcending the narrow limits of some knowledge, as he is one of the most important founders of what is currently known as cultural studies, which have links to the intellectual movements that swept Europe and America, from structuralism, deconstruction, semiotics, feminism and studies of the marginalized. Popular culture, media and ecology.

Williams also had a key political and social role in the formulation of political statements and the publication of the magazine “The New Left.” As for the fields of knowledge, his interests included literature, theater, sociology, economics, philosophy and history. It is not surprising that his name is associated with interest in Hogart and Eric Hobsbawm. And at a later stage Edward Said as colleagues and comrades, as well as related to others.

Language has received great attention in recent studies, and Wittgenstein’s statement that “the limits of language are the limits of the world” is nothing but an indication of the importance of Williams, who had a special interest in the role of language in culture and society, but he differed radically from the prevailing saying about the deterioration of language and the constant complaint about it , blaming the deterioration of values ​​and morals.

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What Williams does is a radical view of the interaction between words and society and the effective role of words. In his introduction to this book “Keywords.. A Cultural and Societal Dictionary” – which was translated into Arabic by Nu’iman Othman – Williams mentions the beginning of his interest in this, and refutes the role of certain words used in public debate, But it may obscure more than it clarifies the views, and goes further than that, bypassing such sayings as Orwell’s complaint about the decline or decline of language and the loss of words to their high meaning, or even Vaclav Havel’s article on the pollution of some words such as “socialism” and “peace”.

Some may have a fondness for words, and then keen to know their origins, and they may find their lost in dictionaries defining and identifying words, and investigating their origins, but this is not what Williams seeks, and he is closer to the sociology of semantics that acquired Robert Merton and Roland Bart in saying about Dictionary Words: “Every word in the dictionary is a spaceship, seemingly closed in on itself, well sealed, but very easily becoming a springboard for other words, other images, and other desires.”

Just as the dictionary seeks to restrict words, the interested sociologist is going in the opposite way towards knowing and investigating those destinations to which words escape and how to escape, but the starting point is always the dictionary, and despite Williams’ admiration for the Oxford Dictionary, it was for him only a starting point, but even a field of study And criticism, for his role, through words, in giving a certain picture of the intellectual, social and political reality.

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Each word comes loaded with meanings, implications, implication, and allusions, which dictionary editors emphasize some at the expense of the rest. Williams has this in mind, from choosing words to acknowledging the fundamental problems with writing about any word, yet he distinguishes between this book and the usual dictionary, which is usually difficult Making amendments to his articles in a short period of time, but he does not hide behind the usual clichés about the author’s shortcomings and apologize for possible errors and distortions, but he puts at the heart of the project the importance of discussion and controversy in his articles and comments.

One of Williams’ motivations for writing this book is to contribute to the analysis of key words people use in their public debate, and to this educational effort that, like Bourdieu, seeks to increase cultural capital, to break the barrier of private and reach the wider audience. The debate leads to a change in society, its components and aspirations. Both Williams and Bourdieu’s upbringing in the countryside and their transition geographically and professionally to political and intellectual centers have an important role in this enthusiasm that characterizes their work.