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The Knowledge of Ignorance: From Genesis to Jules Verne

Overview

This highly original study is concerned with the theory of knowledge. It approaches the subject in a new way by exploring the recurrent paradox which equates pure ignorance with perfect knowledge, twin ideals free from the impurities and imperfections of discourse. The author combines the techniques of literary criticism and intellectual history in order to examine the literary, philosophical, theological, and political ramifications of this anxiety about, and ambition to transcend, the limits of the text. Dr ...

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Overview

This highly original study is concerned with the theory of knowledge. It approaches the subject in a new way by exploring the recurrent paradox which equates pure ignorance with perfect knowledge, twin ideals free from the impurities and imperfections of discourse. The author combines the techniques of literary criticism and intellectual history in order to examine the literary, philosophical, theological, and political ramifications of this anxiety about, and ambition to transcend, the limits of the text. Dr Martin begins by tracing a network of interlocking motifs and images - beginning and end, nescience and omniscience, genesis and renascence, savagery and civilization - across a broad spectrum of texts from the Book of Genesis through the Renaissance (in particular the works of Nicholas of Cusa and Erasmus) to Rousseau. The central section of the book translates these temporal oppositions into the spatial antithesis of East and West in the Orientalism of Hugo, Napoleon and Chateaubriand. A final chapter draws together these apparently disparate themes in a consideration of the dichotomy of science and literature in Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This is an audacious book ... [Martin's] proposition is a compelling one. Although his book is organized chronologically, it is actually a brilliant critical demonstration of the impossibility of solidly based history, of fact, of "truth". A gifted interpreter, Martin is also learned, precise and wonderfully sensitive to the divagations as well as the inherent craziness of the authors he has rightly chosen to highlight. Martin's criticism expresses, as forcefully and brilliantly as can be done, a reticence not just about history and language, but about any direction or coherency at all. In many ways Martin is radically digressive, Shandyan, oblique.' Edward Said, The Times Literary Supplement

'The paradoxical relationship between knowledge and ignorance is inscribed in the most important or influential myth of origin in our culture. It is this relationship which Andrew Martin explores in this unusual and original book, written with great economy, wit, and style. Martin's book is exceedingly clever, at times brilliant, packed with elegant ideas and suggestive insights.' Tony Tanner, The Times Higher Education Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521112482
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/4/2009
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in French Series , #9
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

General editors preface; Preface; Acknowledgements; 1. Beginning; 2. Nescience and omniscience; 3. The occidental orient; 4. The scientific fictions of Jules Verne; 5. End; Notes; Translations; Bibliography; Index.

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