The life of significance: Cultivating ingenuity no less than signs

Vincent Colapietro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Victoria Lady Welby's notion of wit plays a pivotal role in her voluminous writings and, accordingly, in Susan Petrilli's illuminating expositions of the most relevant texts bearing on this central notion. The author of this essay translates Welby's conception of wit into ingenuity and shows how this translation aids us in appreciating the salience and subtlety of Welby's notion. He also follows up on a suggestion offered by C. S. Peirce in his review of Welby's What Is Meaning? (the suggestion that the primitive mind of our remote ancestors was hardly as deficient an instrument as such theorists as E. B. Tylor and Herbert Spencer depicted this mind). Moreover, he takes seriously Welby's insistence upon the gendered character of the specific form of human ingenuity to which she devoted her greatest attention. Finally, the author notes how the cultivation of ingenuity, precisely in Welby's sense,is inextricably linked to the cultivation of signs and especially symbols.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-56
Number of pages22
StatePublished - Nov 29 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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