With a new translation of the Duino Elegies
“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’/orders?” Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies opens with one of the most powerful poetic expressions of the search for meaning in the modern world. Published in 1923, the Elegies would influence important philosophers on the Continent, including Heidegger. But with a few exceptions, Rilke’s poetry has not had an impact on philosophy in the Anglo-American world. In Being Here Is Glorious, James D. Reid offers a fresh translation of the Elegies, which hews to the form of the original and provides his own meditation on the place of poetry in philosophy. Reid makes a convincing case that poetry and philosophy can address the problem of finding things significant and worth affirming in light of various reasons to doubt the value of the world in which we find ourselves cast.
In Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the "nature" they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all.Ecology without Nature investigates our ecological assumptions in a way that is provocative and deeply engaging. Ranging widely in eighteenth-century through contemporary philosophy, culture, and history, he explores the value of art in imagining environmental projects for the future. Morton develops a fresh vocabulary for reading "environmentality" in artistic form as well as content, and traces the contexts of ecological constructs through the history of capitalism. From John Clare to John Cage, from Kierkegaard to Kristeva, from The Lord of the Rings to electronic life forms, Ecology without Nature widens our view of ecological criticism, and deepens our understanding of ecology itself. Instead of trying to use an idea of nature to heal what society has damaged, Morton sets out a radical new form of ecological criticism: "dark ecology."
The assumptions that literary criticism and philosophy are closely linked—and that both disciplines can learn much from each other—lead David White to examine key passages in James Joyce’s novels both as a philosopher and as literary critic. In so doing, he develops a thesis that Joyce’s attempt to capture the mysterious process whereby perception and consciousness are translated into language entails a fundamental challenge to everyday notions of reality. Joyce’s stylistic brilliance and virtuosity, his destruction of normal syntax and meaning, “shock one into a new reality.” In the book’s final section, White examines the subtle relation between literary language and human consciousness and traces parallels between Joyce’s stylistic experimentation and Wittgenstein’s and Husserl’s ideas about language.
Montaigne’s Essays are rightfully studied as giving birth to the literary form of that name. Ann Hartle’s Montaigne and the Origins of Modern Philosophy argues that the essay is actually the perfect expression of Montaigne as what he called "a new figure: an unpremeditated and accidental philosopher." Unpremeditated philosophy is philosophy made sociable—brought down from the heavens to the street, where it might be engaged in by a wider audience. In the same philosophical act, Montaigne both transforms philosophy and invents "society," a distinctly modern form of association. Through this transformation, a new, modern character emerges: the individual, who is neither master nor slave and who possesses the new virtues of integrity and generosity. In Montaigne’s radically new philosophical project, Hartle finds intimations of both modern epistemology and modern political philosophy.
This new study offers a general reassessment of H. G. Wells as a writer and thinker. It concentrates upon the close relationship between Wells’ developing philosophy and his literary techniques. The early chapters examine Wells’ treatment of such subjects as confinement and escape, sex, the nature of human identity, the relationship of individual to race, human progress, and the importance of education. At the same time, the describe the emotional topography that Wells created as a mean of vivifying his ideas, a topography constructed from image complexes largely based upon the analogy between individual and racial evolution.
The major contribution of the book comes in its later chapters, which deal with Wells’ metaphysical assumptions and his approach to his craft. His views on free will and strength of will were intimately related to his methods of literary composition. The important later chapters detail this relationship, while describing some of Wells’ characteristic literary devices, such as the intentional violations of certain novelistic conventions or the sly borrowing from and alluding to contemporary works of literature in what amounted to a covert polemic.
On the whole, this study argues for a coherent and consistent, though developing, philosophy operating throughout Wells’ career and manifested in experimental literary works which, while not always successful, were consistently inventive and intelligently crafted in the service of Wells’ principle aim, the education of the human species to a command of its own destiny.
H. T. Kirby-Smith uses Santayana’s 1936 novel, The Last Puritan, as both an occasion and a means for bringing into focus the complex relations between Santayana’s life, his personality, and his philosophy. Opening with an account of Santayana’s various literary styles and arguing for the significance of Santayana’s writing of philosophy as literature, Kirby-Smith notes that Santayana saw the rational life as a continual adjustment and accommodation of contradictory claims. And he saw a literary style as an accommodation of the author to the reader.
Chapters 2 through 5 provide the philosophical background for a consideration of The Last Puritan, summarizing exactly how Santayana assimilated other philosophies into his own.
Chapters 6 and 7 incorporate Santayana’s three-volume autobiography, his letters and memoirs, and biographical studies by others into a psychological portrait of the author. All of this is in preparation for chapters 8 and 9, which focus on The Last Puritan. Kirby-Smith closes with a chapter that serves as a legal brief in defense of the author against the harsh, sometimes malicious attacks of his critics.
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