Literature, Life, and Modernity

Cambridge University Press (2008)
In Literature, Life, and Modernity Richard Eldridge focuses on the question of a reader's or a viewer's response to a literary or dramatic work in a specific historical epoch ("modernity"). That is, in contrast with many other philosophical approaches to literature, he avoids fixing attention on any putative doctrinal (moral or political or diagnostic) claims in a literary work. Thereby, and in many other admirable ways, he avoids the danger of treating literature as philosophy manqué, concedes the distinctness of literary experience, and only then asks about the significance of this experience. (In this way his approach is reminiscent to some extent of Schiller's; not bad company to be keeping.) This all amounts to a philosophy of literature of sorts,[1] but avoids a forced "philosophy in literature" or "literature as philosophy" treatment. There are themes and ideas at stake of course, but for distinct historical reasons, Eldridge also thinks of what he generally calls "modern" literature as characterized precisely by the absence of any thematic resolution, and so by a kind of play of possibilities, unsettledness, even homelessness. But, he argues, this is a play of ambiguity that
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