Levine shows how Darwin's ideas affected nineteenth-century novelists—from Dickens and Trollope to Conrad. "Levine stands in our day as the premier critic and commentator on Victorian prose."—Frank M. Turner, Nineteenth-Century Literature. "Magnificently written, with a care and delicacy worthy of its subject."—Nina Auerbach, University of Pennsylvania
"Dying to Know is the work of a distinguished scholar, at the peak of his powers, who is intimately familiar with his materials, and whose knowledge of Victorian fiction and scientific thought is remarkable. This elegant and evocative look at the move toward objectivity first pioneered by Descartes sheds new light on some old and still perplexing problems in modern science." Bernard Lightman, York University, Canada
In Dying to Know, eminent critic George Levine makes a landmark contribution to the history and theory of scientific knowledge. This long-awaited book explores the paradoxes of our modern ideal of objectivity, in particular its emphasis on the impersonality and disinterestedness of truth. How, asks Levine, did this idea of selfless knowledge come to be established and moralized in the nineteenth century?
Levine shows that for nineteenth-century scientists, novelists, poets, and philosophers, access to the truth depended on conditions of such profound self-abnegation that pursuit of it might be taken as tantamount to the pursuit of death. The Victorians, he argues, were dying to know in the sense that they could imagine achieving pure knowledge only in a condition where the body ceases to make its claims: to achieve enlightenment, virtue, and salvation, one must die.
Dying to Know is ultimately a study of this moral ideal of epistemology. But it is also something much more: a spirited defense of the difficult pursuit of objectivity, the ethical significance of sacrifice, and the importance of finding a shareable form of knowledge.
Levine, George Rutgers University Press, 1995 Library of Congress QL677.5.L465 1995 | Dewey Decimal 598.07234
In the tradition of Annie Dillard, this book is a set of meditations on nature, in this case specifically on the way birds and birding are entangled with life, with work, family, and friends. While it delicately narrates loving engagement with birds, it is not a field guide. Its author is a birder, not a professional ornithologist. Although the book does in fact offer a surprising amount of detail about birds, it is primarily a consideration of the experience and human significance of seeing birds, rather than of the birds in themselves as objects of systematic study. It attempts to convey something of the extraordinary variety and excitement of birding, the complications and subtleties of bird identification, the implication of birding in the imagination and the world against which it is usually defined.
While one doesn’t have to be interested in birds to read it with pleasure, it attempts to seduce the reader into the birding experience through a series of autobiographical memoirs with birds at their center. It is not meant for experts, except as experts might be interested in how a journeyman experiences their more significantly constructed world. In the end the book is about a lot more than birds. It is about “lifebirds,” with all the many meanings that word might seem to imply.
The Politics of Research
Levine, George Rutgers University Press, 1997 Library of Congress AZ188.U5P65 1997 | Dewey Decimal 001.30720973
"Eloquent, provocative, and timely, these essays provide a thoughtful, undoctrinaire defense of the centrality of the humanities to higher education--and society--at the millennium."--Cora Kaplan, University of Southampton The crisis in the humanities and higher education intensifies daily. The partisan din drowns out the voices of those thinkers who have resisted the seductions of strong ideology. Against the tendencies of the extreme attacks on higher education from the right and the counterattacks from the left, many academics would prefer to get beyond critical fashions and easy slogans. In this collection, leading scholars demonstrate how the current furor threatens the critical analysis of culture, so vital to a healthy society. They explore the historical sources of the crisis, the relations between politics and research, the responsibilities and possibilities of the academic intellectual, the structure of the institution of the university, the functions and achievements of the humanities, and the development of interdisciplinarity as a catalyst for change. This volume is a necessary resource for understanding the current crisis and for transforming the academy as we approach the twenty-first century. The contributors are Jonathan Arac, Lauren Berlant, Peter Brooks, Roman de la Campa, Myra Jehlen, Stanley Katz, Richard Kramer, Dominick LaCapra, George Levine, Ellen Messer-Davidow, Helene Moglen, Bill Readings, and Bruce Robbins. E. Ann Kaplan is the director of The Humanities Institute at the State University of New York at Stony Brook
In The Realistic Imagination, George Levine argues that the Victorian realists and the later modernists were in fact doing similar things in their fiction: they were trying to use language to get beyond language. Levine sees the history of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novel as a continuing process in which each generation of writers struggled to escape the grip of convention and attempted to create new language to express their particular sense of reality. As these attempts hardened into new conventions, they generated new attempts to break free.