The fear of falling, the awareness of lost innocence, lost illusions, lost hopes and intentions, of civilization in decline—these are the themes which link literature to theology, both concerned with the shape of human destiny. Otten discusses the continuing viability of the myth of the Fall in literature. He relates a wide variety of romantic and modern works to fundamental issues in modern Christianity.
Architecture and Modern Literature explores the representation and interpretation of architectural space in modern literature from the early nineteenth century to the present, with the aim of showing how literary production and architectural construction are related as cultural forms in the historical context of modernity. In addressing this subject, it also examines the larger questions of the relation between literature and architecture and the extent to which these two arts define one another in the social and philosophical contexts of modernity. Architecture and Modern Literature will serve as a foundational introduction to the emerging interdisciplinary study of architecture and literature. David Spurr addresses a broad range of material, including literary, critical, and philosophical works in English, French, and German, and proposes a new historical and theoretical overview of this area, in which modern forms of "meaning" in architecture and literature are related to the discourses of being, dwelling, and homelessness.
Modernity arrived in Japan, as elsewhere, through new forms of ownership. In A Fictional Commons, Michael K. Bourdaghs explores how the literary and theoretical works of Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916), widely celebrated as Japan's greatest modern novelist, exploited the contradictions and ambiguities that haunted this new system. Many of his works feature narratives about inheritance, thievery, and the struggle to obtain or preserve material wealth while also imagining alternative ways of owning and sharing. For Sōseki, literature was a means for thinking through—and beyond—private property. Bourdaghs puts Sōseki into dialogue with thinkers from his own era (including William James and Mizuno Rentarō, author of Japan’s first copyright law) and discusses how his work anticipates such theorists as Karatani Kōjin and Franco Moretti. As Bourdaghs shows, Sōseki both appropriated and rejected concepts of ownership and subjectivity in ways that theorized literature as a critical response to the emergence of global capitalism.
In Goethe and Judaism, Schutjer aims to provide a broad, though by no means exhaustive, literary study that is neither apologetic nor reductive, that attends to the complexity and irony of Goethe’s literary work but takes his representations of Judaism seriously as an integral part of his thought and writing. She is thus concerned not simply with accusing or acquitting Goethe of prejudice but rather with discerning the function and logic of his relationship to Judaism, as seen within his work. Her premise is that Goethe’s conception of modernity—his anxieties as well as his most affirmative vision concerning the trajectory of his age—are deeply entwined with his conception of Judaism. Schutjer argues that behind his very mixed representations of Jews and Judaism stand crucial tensions within his own thinking and a distinct anxiety of influence. Indeed, Goethe, she contends, paradoxically wrestles against precisely those impulses in Judaism for which he feels the greatest affinity, which most approach his own vision of modernity. The discourse of wandering in Goethe’s work serves as a key site where Judaism and modernity meet.
Upon the “discovery of childhood,” as named by Philippe Ariès, bourgeois culture and modern literature marked out an arcane realm that, while scarcely accessible for adults, acted as a space for projections of the most contradictory kind and diverse ideological purposes: childhood. As this book reveals, from the eighteenth century onwards, the child increasingly came into focus in literature as a mysterious creature. Now the child seems a strange being, constantly unsettling and alienating, although exposed to ongoing territorialization. This is possible because the space of ‘childhood’ is essentially blank and indefinite. Modernity, therefore, has discovered it as a zone, in the words of Friedrich Schiller of “boundless determinability."
A history of fragmentary—or interrupted—writing in avant-garde poetry and prose by a renowned literary critic.
In Interruptions: The Fragmentary Aesthetic in Modern Literature, Gerald L. Bruns explores the effects of parataxis, or fragmentary writing as a device in modern literature. Bruns focuses on texts that refuse to follow the traditional logic of sequential narrative. He explores numerous examples of self-interrupting composition, starting with Friedrich Schlegel's inaugural theory and practice of the fragment as an assertion of the autonomy of words, and their freedom from rule-governed hierarchies.
Bruns opens the book with a short history of the fragment as a distinctive feature of literary modernism in works from Gertrude Stein to Paul Celan to present-day authors. The study progresses to the later work of Maurice Blanchot and Samuel Beckett, and argues, controversially, that Blanchot's writings on the fragment during the 1950s and early 1960s helped to inspire Beckett’s turn toward paratactic prose.
The study also extends to works of poetry, examining the radically paratactic arrangements of two contemporary British poets, J. H. Prynne and John Wilkinson, focusing chiefly on their most recent, and arguably most abstruse, works. Bruns also offers a close study of the poetry and poetics of Charles Bernstein.
Interruptions concludes with two chapters about James Joyce. First, Bruns tackles the language of Finnegans Wake, namely the break-up of words themselves, its reassembly into puns, neologisms, nonsense, and even random strings of letters. Second, Bruns highlights the experience of mirrors in Joyce’s fiction, particularly in Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses, where mirrored reflections invariably serve as interruptions, discontinuities, or metaphorical displacements and proliferations of self-identity.
The work of renowned thinker Eric Voegelin is largely rooted in his literary sensibility. Voegelin’s contributions to the field of philosophy grew from the depths of his knowledge of history’s most important texts, from ancient to modern times. Many of the concepts he emphasized, such as participatory experience and symbolization in philosophy, have long been significant to literary criticism as well as philosophical study. Voegelin himself even ventured into the field of criticism, publishing a critical examination of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw in 1971. Since it is so strongly influenced by the written record of man’s search for meaning, Voegelinian thought makes an ideal framework for the study of twentieth-century literature.
For Voegelinian Readings of Modern Literature, scholar Charles R. Embry has collected essays that consider particular pieces of literature in light of the philosopher’s work. These essays supply a theoretical grounding for the reading of novels, poems, and plays and reveal how the Voegelinian perspective exposes the existential and philosophical dimensions of the literary works themselves. As a unit, this collection of essays shows how modern pieces of literature can symbolize their creators’ participation in the human search for the truth of existence—just as myths, philosophical works, and religious texts always have.
Voegelin’s primary concern as a philosopher was to expose the roots of the disturbances of the modern era—religious conflict, imperialism, war—so that the sources of order leading to meaning are revealed. The openness of Voegelinian thought and the many ways he considered the levels of reality generate intriguing themes for literary criticism. In these essays, noted Voegelin scholars focus on American and European literary artists from the 1700s through the late twentieth century, including Emily Dickinson, Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Carlyle, D. H. Lawrence, Marcel Proust, and Hermann Broch.
While the intersection of the work of Eric Voegelin and literature has been a part of Voegelin scholarship for decades, this book explores that relationship in an extended form. Through a broad collection of thoughtful essays, Voegelinian Readings of Modern Literature reveals how much Voegelin did to break down the barriers between literature and philosophy and makes an engaging contribution to Voegelin scholarship.