Part of the greatness of great literature consists in the profound, philosophic ideas the works contain. These ideas may not be unknown to philosophy but, when rendered in literary form, they gain an aesthetic force often lacking in the philosophic treatise with its careful train of reasoning.
In this insightful study, Burton Porter explores the philosophic content of some outstanding literary works, analyzing and evaluating the ideas that drive the narrative.
Porter first examines the concept of free will and determinism in Melville’s Moby Dick, placing the quest for the white whale within the context of foreordination, hubris, prophecy, and defiance of divine power. Connections are also drawn to Euripides’ Medea and Shakespeare’s King Lear as well as the Old Testament.
The good and the right are traced in Anouilh’s Antigone and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, showing the philosophic antagonisms in the literature and in the conflicted minds of the authors.
Voltaire’ Candide and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov are then explored insofar as they express the problem of evilthe tension between human suffering on earth and belief in a benevolent, wise, almighty God.
Finally, the nature of the self is investigated in Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, focusing on identity and the mind-body problem.
Porter makes philosophy come alive by showing its expression in art and revealing the depth of ideas that make literature compelling.
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About the Author
Burton Porter received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. from St. Andrews University, Scotland, with graduate study at Oxford University. He has taught at various institutions such as Russell Sage College and Drexel University, and has held positions as Department Chair and Dean of Arts and Sciences. At present, he is on the faculty at Western New England University in Springfield, MA, having served as Visiting Professor at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. He received the award of Outstanding Educator of America.
In addition to The Good Life, Burton Porter is the author and/or editor of numerous books and articles including The Great Perhaps (Rowman and Littlefield), What the Tortoise Taught Us (Rowman and Littlefield), Philosophy Through Film (Sloan Publishing), The Head and the Heart (Humanities Books), The Voice of Reason (Oxford University Press), Philosophy Through Fiction and Film (Prentice Hall, Sloan Publications), Religion and Reason (St. Martin’s Press), Personal Philosophy (Harcourt Brace), Reasons for Living (Macmillan Publishing), Philosophy, A Literary and Conceptual Approach (Harcourt Brace), and Deity and Morality (Routledge, Allen and Unwin).
In addition to his print publications, Dr. Porter has several books on-line at Kindle and Nook including The Moebius Strip, Black Swans and White Tigers, Lab' Rats, The Gadfly, and Forbidden Knowledge - Things We Should Not Know.