Literature, Life, and Modernity

Overview

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 ...

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Literature, Life, and Modernity

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Overview

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—if not stabilizing—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.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

An important book... Highly recommended.

Choice

An important book... Highly recommended.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

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).

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1. Introduction: Subjectivity, Modernity, and the Uses of Literature2. Romanticism, Cartesianism, Humeanism, Byronism: Stoppard's Arcadia3. Romantic Subjectivity in Goethe and Wittgenstein4. Attention, Expressive Power, and Interest in Life: Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"5. The Ends of Literary Narrative: Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo"6. "New Centers of Reflection Are Continually Forming": Benjamin, Sebald, and Modern Human Life in TimeAppendix: "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"NotesIndex

Columbia University Press

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