Figuring Animals is a collection of fifteen essays concerning the representation of animals in literature, the visual arts, philosophy, and cultural practice. At the turn of the new century, it is helpful to reconsider our inherited understandings of the species, some of which are still useful to us. It is also important to look ahead to new understandings and new dialogue, which may contribute to the survival of us all. The contributors to this volume participate in this dialogue (...) in a variety of ways--through personal experience, natural history, cultural studies, philosophical inquiry, art history, literary analysis, film studies, and theoretical imagining, and through a combination of these trains of thought. The essays expose weaknesses in western epistemological frames of reference that for centuries have limited our views and, thus, our experiences of animal being, including our own. (shrink)
While individuals presented in central texts of the period are indeed often alone or separated from others, Yousef regards this isolation as a problem the texts attempt to illuminate, rather than a condition they construct as normative or ...
Applying ideas drawn from contemporary critical theory, this book historicizes psychoanalysis through a new and significant theorization of the Gothic. The central premise is that the nineteenth-century Gothic produced a radical critique of accounts of sublimity and Freudian psychoanalysis. This book makes a major contribution to an understanding of both the nineteenth century and the Gothic discourse which challenged the dominant ideas of that period. Writers explored include Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Bram Stoker.
Being in Time is a provocative and accessible essay on the fragmentation of the self as explored in philosophy and literature. This original study is unique in its focus on the literary aspects of philosophical writing and their interactions with philosophical content. It explores the emotional aspects of the human experience of time commonly neglected in philosophical investigation by looking at how narrative creates and treats the experience of the self as fragmented and the past as "lost." Genevieve (...) Lloyd demonstrates the continuities and the contrasts between modern philosophic discussions of the instability of the knowing subject, treatments of the fragmentation of the self in the modern novel, and older philosophical discussions of the unity of consciousness. Combining theoretical discussion with human experience, Being in Time will be important reading to anyone interested in the relationship between philosophy and literature, as well as to more general audience of readers who share Augustine's experience of time as making him a "problem to himself.". (shrink)
German classicist's monumental study of the origins of European thought in Greek literature and philosophy. Brilliant, widely influential. Includes "Homer's View of Man," "The Olympian Gods," "The Rise of the Individual in the Early Greek Lyric," "Pindar's Hymn to Zeus," "Myth and Reality in Greek Tragedy," and "Aristophanes and Aesthetic Criticism.".
This volume brings together Nussbaum's published papers on the relationship between literature and philosophy, especially moral philosophy. The papers, many of them previously inaccessible to non-specialist readers, explore such fundamental issues as the relationship between style and content in the exploration of ethical issues; the nature of ethical attention and ethical knowledge and their relationship to written forms and styles; and the role of the emotions in deliberation and self-knowledge. Nussbaum investigates and defends a conception of ethical (...) understanding which involves emotional as well as intellectual activity, and which gives a certain type of priority to the perception of particular people and situations rather than to abstract rules. She argues that this ethical conception cannot be completely and appropriately stated without turning to forms of writing usually considered literary rather than philosophical. It is consequently necessary to broaden our conception of moral philosophy in order to include these forms. Featuring two new essays and revised versions of several previously published essays, this collection attempts to articulate the relationship, within such a broader ethical inquiry, between literary and more abstractly theoretical elements. (shrink)
Examining both why and how Emerson evades the ancient quarrel between literature and philosophy, this book entirely rethinks the nature of Emerson's radical individualism and its relation to the possibility of an ethics and a politics. The author argues that the quarrel between literature and philosophy never took place in America, and that instead traditional philosophical work staged itself here as a form of literary praxis and cultural therapeutics, epitomized in the work of Emerson. A revisionary (...) study of some of Emerson's central essays, Less Legible Meanings also invites the reader to reconsider the nature of Emerson's influence on contemporary American culture and to discover new ways in which we might continue to understand his work. Interdisciplinary in scope, the book makes equal use of the history of philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and cultural history. (shrink)
Is it possible for postmodernism to offer viable, coherent accounts of ethics? Or are our social and intellectual worlds too fragmented for any broad consensus about the moral life? These issues have emerged as some of the most contentious in literary and philosophical studies. In Renegotiating Ethics in Literature, Philosophy, and Theory a distinguished international gathering of philosophers and literary scholars address the reconceptualisations involved in this 'turn towards ethics'. An important feature of this has been a renewed (...) interest in the literary text as a focus for the exploration of ethical issues. Exponents of this trend include Charles Taylor, Bernard Williams, Iris Murdoch, Cora Diamond, Richard Rorty and Martha Nussbaum, the latter a contributor and a key figure in this volume. This book assesses the significance of this development for ethical and literary theory and attempts to articulate an alternative postmodern account of ethics which does not rely on earlier appeals to universal truths. (shrink)
Staying for an answer : the untidy process of groping for truth -- The same, only different -- The unity of truth and the plurality of truths -- Coherence, consistency, cogency, congruity, cohesiveness, &c. : remain calm! don't go overboard! -- Not cynicism, but synechism : lessons from classical pragmatism -- Science, economics, "vision" -- The integrity of science : what it means, why it matters -- Scientific secrecy and "spin" : the sad, sleazy story of the trials of remune (...) -- Truth and justice, inquiry and advocacy, science and law -- Trial and error : the Supreme Court's philosophy of science -- An epistemologist among the epidemiologists -- Fallibilism and faith, naturalism and the supernatural, science and religion -- The ideal of intellectual integrity, in life and literature -- After my own heart : Dorothy Sayers's feminism -- Worthwhile lives -- Why I am not an oxymoron -- Formal philosophy? : a plea for pluralism. (shrink)
The year 1492 is only the last in a series of “ends” that inform the representation of medieval Spain in modern Jewish historical and literary discourses. These ends simultaneously mirror the traumas of history and shed light on the discursive process by which hermetic boundaries are set between periods, communities, and texts. This book addresses the representation of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as the end of al-Andalus (Islamic Spain). Here, the end works to locate and separate Muslim from Christian (...) Spain, Jews from Arabs, philosophy from Kabbalah, Kabbalah from literature, and texts from contexts. The book offers a reading of texts that emerge from its Andalusi, Jewish, and Arabic cultural sphere: Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed; the major text of Kabbalah, the Zohar; and the Arabic rhymed prose narrative of Ibn al-Astarkuwi. The author argues that these texts are written in a language that disrupts the possibility of locating it in a pre-existing cultural situation, a recognizable literary tradition, or a particular genre. At stake are issues – texts and contexts – that have gained particular urgency in the writings of such recent thinkers as Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Avital Ronell. The book reads the place and taking place of language, interrogating the notion of disappearing contexts and the view that language is derivative of its true place, the context that, having ended, is mourned as silent and lost. (shrink)
Numinous spaces in British literature from William Wordsworth to Samuel Beckett -- Jesus figures in American literature from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Edward Albee -- Using Bakhtin's definitions to discover ethical voices in Solzhenitsyn and Tolstoy -- René Girard's categories of scapegoats in literature of the American South -- Hopkins's metaphysics of nature as sacred disclosure -- The book of job as mirrored in Hopkins's metaphysics -- Beckett's mythos of the absence of God.
These challenging essays defend Romanticism against its critics. They argue that Romantic thought, interpreted as the pursuit of freedom in concrete contexts, remains a central and exemplary form of both artistic work and philosophical understanding. Marshalling a wide range of texts from literature, philosophy and criticism, Richard Eldridge traces the central themes and stylistic features of Romantic thinking in the work of Kant, Hölderlin, Wordsworth, Hardy, Wittgenstein, Cavell and Updike. Through his analysis he shows that Romanticism is neither (...) emptily literary and escapist nor dogmatically optimistic and sentimental. This is the first serious philosophical defense of the ethical ideals of Romanticism and will appeal particularly to all professionals and students in philosophy, literature and aesthetics who are interested in what, philosophically, literature can show that philosophy cannot say. (shrink)
Fish, S. Georgics of the mind: Bacon's philosophy and the experience of his Essays.--Brett, R. L. Thomas Hobbes.--Watt, I. Realism and the novel.--Tuveson, E. Locke and Sterne.--Kampf, L. Gibbon and Hume.--Frye, N. Blake's case against Locke.--Abrams, M. H. Mechanical and organic psychologies of literary invention.--Ryle, G. Jane Austen and the moralists.--Schneewind, J. B. Moral problems and moral philosophy in the Victorian period.--Donagan, A. Victorian philosophical prose: J. S. Mill and F. H. Bradley.--Pitcher, G. Wittgenstein, nonsense, and Lewis Carroll.--Bolgan, (...) A. C. The philosophy of F. H. Bradley and the mind and art of T. S. Eliot: an introduction.--Davie, D. Yeats, Berkeley, and Romanticism.--Ross, M. L. The mythology of friendship: D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, and "The Blind man".--Rosenbaum, S. P. The philosophical realism of Virginia Woolf.--Bibliography (p. 357-360). (shrink)
Examining the literature of slavery and race before the Civil War, Maurice Lee demonstrates for the first time exactly how the slavery crisis became a crisis of philosophy that exposed the breakdown of national consensus and the limits of rational authority. Poe, Stowe, Douglass, Melville, and Emerson were among the antebellum authors who tried - and failed - to find rational solutions to the slavery conflict. Unable to mediate the slavery controversy as the nation moved toward war, (...) their writings form an uneasy transition between the confident rationalism of the American Enlightenment and the more skeptical thought of the pragmatists. Lee draws on antebellum moral philosophy, political theory, and metaphysics, bringing a fresh perspective to the literature of slavery - one that synthesizes cultural studies and intellectual history to argue that romantic, sentimental, and black Atlantic writers all struggled with modernity when facing the slavery crisis. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Acknowledgments; Introduction: scales of identification; 1. Democratic expansionism, gothic geographies, and Charles Brockden Brown; 2. Urban apartments, global cities: the enlargement of private space in Poe and James; 3. Cultural orphans: domesticity, missionaries, and China from Stowe to Sui Sin Far; 4. 'The Checkered Globe': cosmopolitan despair in the American Pacific; 5. Literature and regional production; Epilogue: scales of resistance.
This is a major study of conceptions of selfhood and personality in Homer and Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. The focus is on the norms of personality in Greek psychology and ethics. Gill argues that the key to understanding Greek thought of this type is to counteract the subjective and individualistic aspects of our own thinking about the person. He defines an "objective-participant" conception of personality, symbolized by the idea of the person as an interlocutor in a series of psychological (...) and ethical dialogues. (shrink)
This book is an invitation to read poetry. Simon Critchley argues that poetry enlarges life with a range of observation, power of expression and attention to language that eclipses any other medium. In a rich engagement with the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Critchley reveals that poetry also contains deep and important philosophical insight. Above all, he argues for a "poetic epistemology" that enables us to think afresh the philosophical problem of the relation between mind and world, and ultimately to cast (...) the problem away. Drawing astutely on Kant, the German and English Romantics and Heidegger, Critchley argues that through its descriptions of particular things and their stubborn plainness - whether water, guitars, trees, or cats - poetry evokes the "mereness" of things. It is this experience that provokes the mood of calm and releases the imaginative insight we need to press back against the pressure of reality. Critchley also argues that this calm defines the cinematic eye of Terrence Malick, whose work is discussed at the end of the book. (shrink)
Aims of education: historicism and In the castle of my skin -- The meaning of life and Black lightning -- The inner radiance of the shelf in Palace of the peacock -- Knowledge and human understanding in A house for Mr Biswas -- Existentialism and The children of Sisyphus -- Tragic vision in Wide Sargasso Sea -- African conceptions of a person and Myal -- The law of karma in Sastra -- The moralty of reparations in Salt -- Plato versus (...) Kincaid?: A reading of The autobiography of my mother. (shrink)
In recent years, multidisciplinary study has become all the rage in academic circles. Scholars have been going all out for interdisciplinarity, not only in research programs, but pedagogically in the classroom, and structurally in higher education curricula. Fewer and fewer cautionary voices are being heeded or even heard in this conversation. In this essay, I advocate a mediating position on this issue that has emerged from reflecting on my own professional work with interdisciplinary scholarship. That work includes research, scholarship, and (...) teaching in the fields of theology, religion and science, and religion and literature, as well as ten years of editorial experience with the American Journal of Theology and .. (shrink)
Charles Bernheimer described decadence as a "stimulant that bends thought out of shape, deforming traditional conceptual molds." In this posthumously published work, Bernheimer succeeds in making a critical concept out of this perennially fashionable, rarely understood term. Decadent Subjects is a coherent and moving picture of fin de siècle decadence. Mature, ironic, iconoclastic, and thoughtful, this remarkable collection of essays shows the contradictions of the phenomenon, which is both a condition and a state of mind. In seeking to show why (...) people have failed to give a satisfactory account of the term decadence, Bernheimer argues that we often mistakenly take decadence to represent something concrete, that we see as some sort of agent. His salutary response is to return to those authors and artists whose work constitutes the topos of decadence, rereading key late nineteenth-century authors such as Nietzsche, Zola, Hardy, Wilde, Moreau, and Freud to rediscover the very dynamics of the decadent. Through careful analysis of the literature, art, and music of the fin de siècle including a riveting discussion of the many faces of Salome, Bernheimer leaves us with a fascinating and multidimensional look at decadence, all the more important as we emerge from our own fin de siècle. (shrink)
Robert Abrams argues that new concepts of space and landscape emerged in mid-nineteenth-century American writing, marking a linguistic and interpretative limit to American expansion. Abrams supports the radical elements of antebellum writing, where writers from Hawthorne to Rebecca Harding Davis disputed the naturalizing discourses of mid-nineteenth century society. Whereas previous critics find in antebellum writing a desire to convert chaos into an affirmative, liberal agenda, Abrams contends that authors of the 1840s and 50s deconstructed more than they constructed.
A recent focus of Philip Kitcher’s research has been, somewhat surprisingly in the light of his earlier work, the philosophical analyses of literary works and operas. Some may see a discontinuity in Kitcher’s oeuvre in this respect – it may be difficult to see how his earlier contributions to philosophy of science relate to this much less mainstream approach to philosophy. The aim of this paper is to show that there is no such discontinuity: Kitcher’s contributions to the (...)philosophy of science and his more recent endeavors into the philosophy of literature and of music are grounded in the same big picture attitude towards the human mind – an attitude that he would undoubtedly call ‘pragmatic’: one that emphasizes the importance of those mental processes that are not (or not entirely) rational. (shrink)
In Transcendence , thinkers from John Milbank, Graham Ward, and Kevin Hart, to Thomas Carlson, Slavoj Zizek, and Jean-Luc Marion have come together to create the definitive analysis of this key concept in modern theological and philosophical thought.
The essays in this volume explore the ways in which traditional philosophical problems about self-knowledge, self-identity, and value have migrated into literature since the Romantic and Idealist periods. How do so-called literary works take up these problems in a new way? What conception of the subject is involved in this literary practice? How are the lines of demarcation between philosophy and literature problematised? The contributors examine these issues with reference both to Romantic and Idealist writers and to (...) some of their literary and philosophical inheritors and revisers. Their essays offer a philosophical understanding of the roots and nature of contemporary literary and philosophical practice, and elaborate powerful and influential, but rarely decisively articulated, conceptions of the human subject and of value. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction; Part I. Theoretical Views about Pity and Fear as Aesthetic Emotions: 1. Drama and the emotions: an Indo-European connection? 2. Gorgias: a strange trio, the poetic emotions; 3. Plato: from reality to tragedy and back; 4. Aristotle: the first 'theorist' of the aesthetic emotions; Part II. Pity and Fear within Tragedies: 5. An introduction; 6. Aeschylus: Persians; 7. Prometheus Bound; 8. Sophocles: Ajax; 9. Euripides: Orestes; Appendix: catharsis and the emotions in the definition of tragedy (...) in the Poetics. (shrink)
Why do people respond emotionally to works of fiction they know are make-believe? Boruah tackles this question, which is fundamental aesthetics and literary studies, from a totally new perspective. Bringing together the various answers that have been offered by philosophers from Aristotle to Roger Scruton, he shows that while some philosophers have denied any rational basis to our emotional responses to fiction, others have argued that the emotions evoked by fiction are not real emotions at all. In response to this, (...) Boruah contends that fictional emotions are rational because they are based on the same sorts of beliefs that we form about real situations and real people. He illustrates this argument with literary examples ranging from Shakespeare to Tolstoy. (shrink)
Introduction: How newness enters the world -- Surrealism and the Caribbean: a curious line of resemblance -- Writing back to the colonial event: Derek Walcott and Wilson Harris -- Édouard Glissant's poetics of the chaosmos -- Postcolonial literature as health: Robert Antoni and Nalo Hopkinson.
Through the voice of the narrator of Remembrance of Things Past, Proust observes of the painter Elstir that the paintings are bolder than the artist; Elstir the painter is bolder than Elstir the theorist. This book applies the same distinction to Proust; the Proustian novel is bolder than Proust the theorist. By this the author means that the novel is philosophically bolder, that it pursues further The task Proust identifies as the writer's work: to explain life, to elucidate what has (...) been lived in obscurity and confusion. In this, the novelist and the philosopher share a common goal: to clarify the obscure in order to arrive at the truth. It follows that Proust's real philosophy of the novel is to be found not in the speculative passages of Remembrance, which merely echo the philosophical commonplaces of his time, but in the truly novelistic or narrative portions of his text. In Against Sainte-Beuve, Proust sets forth his ideas about literature in the form of a critique of the method of Sainte-Beuve. Scholars who have studied Proust's notebooks describe the way in which this essay was taken over by bits of narrative originally intended as illustrations supporting its theses. The philosophical portions of Remembrance were not added to the narrative as an afterthought, designed to bring out its meaning. What happened was the reverse: the novel was born of a desire to illustrate the propositions of the essay. Why then should we not find the novel more philosophically advanced than the essay? Reversing the usual order following by literary critics, the author interprets the novel as an elucidation, and not as a simple transposition, of the essay. The book is not only a general interpretation of Proust's novel and its construction; it includes detailed discussions of such topics as literature and philosophy, the nature of literary genres, the poetics of the novel, the definition of art, modernity and postmodernity, and the sociology of literature. (shrink)
In this paper I investigate how philosophy can speak for children and how children can have a voice in philosophy and speak for philosophy. I argue that we should understand children as responsible rational individuals who are involved in their own philosophical inquiries and who can be involved in our own philosophical investigations—not because of their rational abilities, but because we acknowledge them as conversational partners, acknowledge their reasons as reasons, and speak for them as well as (...) let them speak for us and our rational community. In order to argue this I turn, first, to Gareth Matthews' philosophy of childhood and suggest a reconstruction of some of his concepts in line with the philosophy of Stanley Cavell. Second, in order to examine more closely our conceptions of rationality and our pictures of children, I consider the children's books, The Lorax and Where is My Sister? and Henrik Ibsen's play, The Wild Duck. (shrink)
Literature, like the visual arts, posess its own characteristic philosophical problems. Literary theorists have discussed widely the nature of literature, while analytic philosophers have dealt with literary problems within the framework of aesthetics or have restricted themselves to topics which are accessible only to a philosophical audience. Philosophy of Literature is unique in that it introduces the philosophy of literature from an analytic perspective which is both accessible to students of literature and students (...) of philosophy. Specifically, the book addresses: the definition of literature, the distinction between oral and written literature and the identity of literary works. Philosophy of Literature offers fresh approaches to traditional issues and raises new questions about the nature of philosophical problems which literature gives rise to. (shrink)
Philosophy of Literature presents six newly-commissioned essays from international scholars that address some of the key issues relating to the philosophy of literature, a thriving and increasingly influential branch of aesthetics Features a half dozen newly commissioned articles from leading scholars in the field of philosophy of literature Focuses on a branch of aesthetics that has not received the attention it deserves Includes a reading on the historical relationship between philosophy and literature (...) with recent developments and projections for the future Contributors include Peter Lamarque (University of York), Peter Kivy (Rutgers University, USA) and Stein Haugom Olsen (University of Bergen, Norway). (shrink)
Recently, a number of Anglo-American philosophers of very different sorts--pragmatists, metaphysicians, philosophers of language, philosophers of law, moral philosophers--have taken a reflective rather than merely recreational interest in literature. Does this literary turn mean that philosophy is coming to an end or merely down to earth? In this collection of essays, one of the most insightful of contemporary literary theorists investigates the intersection of literature and philosophy, analyzing the emerging preferences for practice over theory, particulars over (...) universals, events over structures, inhabitants over spectators, an ethics of responsibility over a morality of rules, and a desire for intimacy with the world instead of simply a disengaged knowledge of it. (shrink)
This bibliography aims to gather together studies in the philosophy of literature by Finnish researchers. It consists of articles and monographs which treat i) philosophical literary theory, ii) philosophical literature, or iii) literary philosophy and philosophers’ use of literary devices. The bibliography, collected by requests of publication data and from several Finnish publication databases, is not intended inclusive. Nevertheless, it is being throughout updated, and all kinds of suggestions, updates and corrections are most welcome.
This book examines the complex and varied ways in which fictions relate to the real world, and offers a precise account of how imaginative works of literature can use fictional content to explore matters of universal human interest. While rejecting the traditional view that literature is important for the truths that it imparts, the authors also reject attempts to cut literature off altogether from real human concerns. Their detailed account of fictionality, mimesis, and cognitive value, founded on (...) the methods of analytical philosophy, restores to literature its distinctive status among cultural practices. The authors also explore metaphysical and skeptical views, prevalent in modern thought, according to which the world itself is a kind of fiction, and truth no more than a social construct. They identify different conceptions of fiction in science, logic, epistemology, and make-believe, and thereby challenge the idea that discourse per se is fictional and that different modes of discourse are at root indistinguishable. They offer rigorous analyses of the roles of narrative, imagination, metaphor, and "making" in human thought processes. Both in their methods and in their conclusions, Lamarque and Olsen aim to restore rigor and clarity to debates about the values of literature, and to provide new, philosophically sound foundations for a genuine change of direction in literary theorizing. (shrink)
The encroachment of globalization and demands for greater regional autonomy have had a profound effect on the way we picture Ireland. This challenging new look at the key issue of sovereignty asks us how we should think about the identity of a "postnationalist" Ireland. Richard Kearney goes to the heart of the conflict over demand for communal identity, traditionally expressed by nationalism, and the demand for a universal model of citizenship, traditionally expressed by republicanism. In so doing, he asks us (...) to question whether the sacrosanct concept of absolute national sovereignty is becoming a luxury ill afforded in the emerging new Europe. Kearney then takes us beyond the political with chapters on the influence of philosophers such as George Berkeley, John Toland and John Tyndall, and looks at some of the myths in Irish poetry and nationhood. Postnationalist Ireland provides a recasting of contemporary Irish politics, culture, literature and philosophy and will appeal to students of these subjects and Irish studies in general. (shrink)
Introduction -- The muse of paralysis -- Horizon of conquest: Eugene Fromentin's Algerian narratives -- Slow progress: Jean Paulhan and Madagascar -- Frustration: Michel Leiris -- Atopia: Roland Barthes -- The wake of Ulysses.
Cefalu offers the first sustained assessment of the ways in which recent contemporary philosophy and cultural theory -- including the work of Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Eric Santner, Slavoj Žižek, and Alenka Zupancic -- can illuminate Early Modern literature and culture. The book argues that when selected Early Modern devotional poets set out to represent subject-God relations, they often encounter some sublime aspect of God that, in Slovenian-Lacanian terms, seems "Other" to himself. This divine Other, while sometimes presented (...) directly as a void or empty place, is more often filled in and presented instead as some form of divine excess. While Donne, and to a lesser extent Traherne, disavow those numinous aspects of God that might subsist beneath such excesses, Crashaw, and especially Milton, attempt to represent the intimate relationship between any creature’s and God's intrinsic alterity. Cefalu introduces new ways of theorizing not only seventeenth-century religious ideologies, but also the nature of Early Modern subjectivity. (shrink)
In this paper I address some related aspects of Merleau-Ponty’s unfinished texts, The Visible and the Invisible and The Prose of the World. The point of departure for my reading of these works is the sense of philosophical disillusionment which underlies and motivates them, and which, I argue, leads Merleau-Ponty towards an engagement with art in general and with literature in particular. I suggest that Merleau-Ponty’s emerging conception of ethics—premised on the paradox of a “universal singularity” and concerned with (...) the concrete experience of the individual subject, rather than with abstractions and formal categories—can best be articulated through the formalist concept of “defamiliarization,” the fundamental performativity of all literature, and the dialogic relations which, though inherent in all discourse, become most powerfully evident in the dynamics of reading. (shrink)
Philosophy as Fiction seeks to account for the peculiar power of philosophical literature by taking as its case study the paradigmatic generic hybrid of the twentieth century, Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. At once philosophical--in that it presents claims, and even deploys arguments concerning such traditionally philosophical issues as knowledge, self-deception, selfhood, love, friendship, and art--and literary, in that its situations are imaginary and its stylization inescapably prominent, Proust's novel presents us with a conundrum. How should (...) it be read? Can the two discursive structures co-exist, or must philosophy inevitably undermine literature (by sapping the narrative of its vitality) and literature undermine philosophy (by placing its claims in the mouth of an often unreliable narrator)? In the case of Proust at least, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. Not only can a coherent, distinctive philosophical system be extracted from the Recherche, once the narrator's periodic waywardness is taken into account; not only does a powerfully original style pervade its every nook, overtly reinforcing some theories and covertly exemplifying others; but aspects of the philosophy also serve literary ends, contributing more to character than to conceptual framework. What is more, aspects of the aesthetics serve philosophical ends, enabling a reader to engage in an active manner with an alternative art of living. Unlike the "essay" Proust might have written, his novel grants us the opportunity to use it as a practice ground for cooperation among our faculties, for the careful sifting of memories, for the complex procedures involved in self-fashioning, and for the related art of self-deception. It is only because the narrator's insights do not always add up--a weakness, so long as one treats the novel as a straightforward treatise--that it can produce its training effect, a feature that turns out to be its ultimate strength. (shrink)
Eighteenth-century France witnessed the rise of matter itself—in forms ranging from atoms to anatomies—as a privileged object of study. Voluptuous Philosophy redefines what is at stake in the emergence of an enlightened secular materialism by showing how questions of figure—how should a body be represented? What should the effects of this representation be on readers?—are tellingly and consistently located at the very heart of 18th-century debates about the nature of material substance. French materialisms of the Enlightenment are crucially invested (...) not only in the development of a sophisticated theoretical apparatus around the notion of matter but in the production of specific relationships between readers and the "matter" of the texts that they consume. How, the book asks, did the period's fascination with a markedly immaterial and ephemeral event—the reading of works of fiction—come to coincide with what appears to be a gradual materialization of human subjects: men and women who increasingly manage to envision themselves transfigured, as the century wears on, into machines, animals, and even, in the work of the Marquis de Sade, tables and chairs? In what way did the spread of new philosophies of matter depend upon the ability of readers to perceive certain figures of speech as literally and immediately true—to imagine themselves as fully material bodies even as they found themselves most deeply compelled by disembodied literary forms? More broadly, in what sense does the act of reading literature alter and transfigure our perceptions of what is, and can be, real? Voluptuous Philosophy articulates the gradual coming into being of literature as a distinct arena of textual production with the rise of an enlightened reader who remains abstracted from the bodily symptoms that any given piece of writing may induce in him. The very definition of "the literary" as an autonomous field, this book suggests, may, ironically, be dependent upon the simultaneous construction of a material world that remains fully immune to its effects. (shrink)