A New Foundation for the Definition of Words and Supplementary Essays by Laura (Riding) Jackson and Schuyler B. Jackson.
Edited by William Harmon, Introduction by Charles Bernstein, Published by University Press of Virginia 1997, ISBN 0-8139-1682-8.
"The publication of Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words brings to completion one of the most aesthetically
and philosophically singular projects of twentieth-century American poetry. No North American or European poet of this century
has created a body of work that reflects more deeply on the inherent conflicts between truth telling and the inevitable artifice
of poetry than Laura (Riding) Jackson." Charles Bernstein, from the introduction.
Existing only in manuscript since the 1940s but enjoying an underground reputation among friends and advocates, this primary
document by one of the most original and influential of American poets and thinkers is now being published as Rational Meaning
,Laura (Riding) Jackson's testament of the necessity of living for truth. Begun as a dictionary and thesaurus in the 193os,
the work developed into a fundamental reevaluation of language itself Riding, in close collaboration with her husband, continued
this monumental project over the succeeding decades, completing it after his death in 1968. The work, which she regarded
as a "Magna Carta of the human mind," has heretofore been seen by only a handful of people. Yet the recent resurgence of interest
in Laura Riding (1901-1991) is nourishing the growth of scholarship and study, in which this culmination of a life's work
will play its part as her true significance becomes more widely understood.
At the age of forty, having already produced a substantial and challenging body of poetry, stories, and criticism, Laura (Riding)
Jackson renounced poetry and began to concentrate on the discovery of the principles that embed truth and meaning in words.
She believed that, if words and meaning could be irrevocably fused, people would become "morally articulate" and thus could
never lie. This inquiry, which reaches out to include literature, philosophy, linguistics, and lexicography, would become
central to the latter half of her long life and would finally result in Rational Meaning. Included in this edition are essays
that Riding wanted published as supplements to Rational Meaning. At the core of Rational Meaning, which aims to restore the
truth of language by arguing that meaning inheres in words, stands the idea that a total renovation of the knowledge of language
is needed, not to develop mere verbal sophistication and respectability but fundamentally to reinvigorate the intellectual
processes of consciousness. The book reveals the disastrous extent to which language has been "unlearned" and shows how it
may be learned again. Rational Meaning will be essential reading, not only for students of literature but for radical-minded
linguists and lexicographers unhappy with the orthodoxies current in their disciplines.
Among Laura (Riding) Jackson 's recent publications are First Awakenings: The Early Poems of Laura (Riding) Jackson and The
Word "Woman" and Other Related Writings. Schuyler Jackson's writings have been published in several magazines, including
The New Republic and Time.
Copyright © by the Laura (Riding) Jackson Board of Literary Management