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Narrative, Religion and Science: Fundamentalism versus Irony, 1700-1999 / Edition 1

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2002 Paperback Very Good Book Book. 281 pp. Clean nicely bound copy. Unmarked text. light general edgewear. Makes a very nice copy and priced accordingly with secure packaging! ... An increasing number of contemporary scientists, philosophers and theologians downplay their professional authority and describe their work as simply "telling stories about the world". If this is so, literary criticism can and should be applied to all these fields. Yet story telling is neither innocent nor empty-handed. Register, rhetoric, and imagery all manipulate in their own ways. Above all, irony emerges as the natural mode of our modern fragmented culture. Since the eighteenth century there have been only two possible ways of understanding the world--the fundamentalist and the ironic. Read more Show Less

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Overview

An increasing number of contemporary scientists, philosophers and theologians downplay their professional authority and describe their work as simply 'telling stories about the world'. If this is so, Stephen Prickett argues, literary criticism can (and should) be applied to all these fields.

Such new-found modesty is not necessarily post-modernist scepticism towards all grand narratives, but it often conceals a widespread confusion and naivety about what 'telling stories', 'description' or 'narrative' actually involve. While postmodernists define 'narrative' in opposition to the experimental 'knowledge' of science (Lyotard), some scientists insist that science is itself story-telling (Gould); certain philosophers and theologians even see all knowledge simply as stories created by language (Rorty; Cupitt). Yet story-telling is neither innocent nor empty-handed. Register, rhetoric and imagery all manipulate in their own ways; above all, irony emerges as the natural mode of our modern fragmented culture. Prickett argues that since the eighteenth century there have been only two possible ways of understanding the world: the fundamentalist, and the ironic.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
This exploration of narrative is a response to a post-1970s trend among scientists and non-scientists alike to see scientific explanation as compelling fiction (exemplars cited include Jean- Francois Lyotard, Richard Rorty, and Stephen Jay Gould). Prickett (English emeritus, Glasgow U. and visiting, Duke U.) connects to multiple narratives and to one explanation ("the truth"). His ingenious and guiding image is a print wherein Napoleon is invisibly configured in the negative space between trees, but once seen, cannot be unseen: Prickett's point is that once a multi-leveled understanding kicks in (seeing Napoleon the landscape), it is nearly impossible to return to a single level, to see just a landscape. The author cautions, however, that "The principle danger is...assuming that narratives all tell the of story." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"...an ambitious, engaging and widely ranging contribution to the interdisciplinary study of literature, philosophy, religion, and science of the last three hundred years. ...this book deserves to be read and studied carefully by a wide audience..." Religion & Literature

"Prickett wants to carve out a space for religion against postmodern relativism... [T]his book can probably be read with most pleasure by the neophyte student of postmodernism." Choice

"...a tour de force...it contributes provocatively and valuably to the case for regarding the narrative relation between science and religion as being much closer than some might be prone to acknowledge." The Journal of Religion

"brisk, jargon-free and spendidly readable..." The Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521009836
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Prickett is Professor of English at Duke University, North Carolina. Prior to this he was Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow. He took his BA at Cambridge (Trinity Hall) and subsequently did postgraduate work in Oxford (University College) and back in Cambridge, where he took his Ph.D. in 1968. Previous appointments include the Chair of English at the Australian National University in Canberra (1983–89), and teaching posts at the Universities of Sussex (England) (1967–82), Minnesota (1979–80), and Smith College, Massachusetts (USA) (1970–71). Aarhus University, Denmark (1997) and Singapore (1999). He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, former Chairman of the UK Higher Education Foundation, President of the European Society for the Study of Literature and Theology, and of the George MacDonald Society. He has published one novel, thirteen monographs, some seventy five articles on Romanticism, Victorian Studies and related topics, especially on literature and theology, including Coleridge and Wordsworth: The Poetry of Growth (1970), Romanticism and Religion: The Tradition of Coleridge and Wordsworth in the Victorian Church (1976), Victorian Fantasy (1978), The Romantics (ed.) (1981), Words and the Word: Language, Poetics and Biblical Interpretation (1986), Reading the Text: Biblical Criticism and Literary Theory (ed.) 1991, and Origins of Narrative: the Romantic Appropriation of the Bible (1996). He is also joint author (with Robert Barnes) of the volume on The Bible for the Cambridge University Press Landmarks of World Literature Series (1991), and joint editor (with Robert Carroll) of the Oxford University Press World's Classics Bible (1997) and (with David Jasper) of the new Blackwells Reader in Literature and Religion. (1999). He is General Editor of the Macmillan Romanticism in Perspective Series, and editorial consultant to the Oxford Bible Commentary Series and to Blackwells Bible Comment

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction: Arthur Dent, Screwtape and the mysteries of story-telling 1
1 Postmodernism, grand narratives and just-so stories 14
2 Newton and Kissinger: Science as irony? 54
3 Learning to say 'I': Literature and subjectivity 94
4 Reconstructing religion: Fragmentation, typology and symbolism 128
5 The ache in the missing limb: Language, truth and presence 157
6 Twentieth-century fundamentalisms: Theology, truth and irony 195
7 Science and religion: Language, metaphor and consilience 225
Concluding conversational postscript: The tomb of Napoleon 256
Bibliography 264
Index 274
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