The combination of the idea that speakers control the effects of persuasive rhetoric with the modern idea of literary autonomy ("poetry makes nothing happen") has produced a misleading account of the relationship between words and human action. Words can and do make things happen, but they cannot be counted on to produce their intended result.
Lunch will be provided. Spaces are limited; those wishing to attend should RSVP here.
David Bromwich is Sterling Professor of English at Yale University.