Literature, Life, and Modernity

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Columbia University Press, Aug 14, 2012 - Philosophy - 192 pages
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Richard Eldridge explores the ability of dense and formally interesting literature to respond to the complexities of modern life. Beyond simple entertainment, difficult modern works cultivate reflective depth and help their readers order and interpret their lives as subjects in relation to complex economies and technological systems. By imagining themselves in the role of the protagonist or the authorial persona, readers become immersed in structures of sustained attention, under which concrete possibilities of meaningful life, along with difficulties that block their realization, are tracked and clarified.

Literary form, Eldridge argues, generates structures of care, reflection, and investment within readers, shaping& mdash;if not stabilizing& mdash;their interactions with everyday objects and events. Through the experience of literary forms of attention, readers may come to think and live more actively, more fully engaging with modern life, rather than passively suffering it. Eldridge considers the thought of Descartes, Kant, Adorno, Benjamin, Stanley Cavell, and Charles Taylor in his discussion of Goethe, Wordsworth, Rilke, Stoppard, and Sebald, advancing a philosophy of literature that addresses our desire to read and the meaning and satisfaction that literary attention brings to our fragmented modern lives.


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Subjectivity Modernity and the Uses of Literature
2 Romanticism Cartesianism Humeanism Byronism Stoppards Arcadia
3 Romantic Subjectivity in Goethe and Wittgenstein
Wordsworths Tintern Abbey
Rilkes Archaic Torso of Apollo
Benjamin Sebald and Modern Human Life in Time
Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbery on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour July 13 1798 William Wordsworth

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About the author (2012)

Richard Eldridge is Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell Professor of Philosophy at Swarthmore College. He is the author of The Persistence of Romanticism, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art, and On Moral Personhood, and is the editor of Beyond Representation, Stanley Cavell, and The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature (forthcoming).

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