Monday, April 30, 2012

Whither the philosophical novel ...

Witold Gombrowicz

Martin Walser interviewed by Alexander Görlach on 'the old wound of lacking justification': 'The authors Franz Kafka and Karl Barth have quite a bit to say on that question.'

On Aussie radio, Alan Saunders interviews Henry Sussman about Kafka and philosophy.

Zdenka Pregelj on 'Kant's Aesthetics in Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground'

 A Guardian list of philosophical novels. From 2010, Rebecca Goldstein's top five 'novels of ideas'.

Jennie Erdal's April 7 article on whether it's still possible to write a philosophical novel; a central European response. And James Ryerson's Jan., 2011 NY Times article on this topic (with much about David Foster Wallace).

Added May 1:  Daniel Kehlmann has a new play about Gödel called 'Ghosts in Princeton': 'The play is about the Viennese mathematician Kurt Gödel (1906-1978), who by age 24 revolutionized the logic of mathematics. ... Kehlmann follows the giant footsteps of Gödel and Adele on their journey from Vienna to Princeton. Breakthrough thinking, brilliant logic and a self-destructive rationalism characterized Gödel’s remarkable history.' (via Literary Saloon)

Milan Kundera in a 1989 interview (first published in Review of Contemporary Fiction): 'I’m not thinking of the so-called "philosophical novel" that really means a subordination of the novel to philosophy, the novelistic illustration of ideas. This is Sartre. And even more so Camus. La Peste. This moralizing novel is almost the model of what I don’t like. The intent of a Musil or a Broch is entirely different: it is not to serve philosophy but, on the contrary, to get hold of a domain that, until then, philosophy had kept for itself.'

Added May 1: From David Winters' review of Eli Friedlander's new book on Walter Benjamin as a philosopher: 'Friedlander advanced a similar argument in previous books on Rousseau and Wittgenstein, contending that these authors' "literary" inclinations—for instance, Rousseau's accounts of his personal reflections and religious reveries—are inseparable from their philosophical systems.' Winters adds, 'Friedlander claims that Arcades is a work of "philosophical history" whose style and substance are systematically interwoven. ... By reframing "the truth that philosophy has traditionally aimed at" as a matter of "the presentation of historical material," the project redefines philosophical practice as an activity grounded in concreteness.'

Ben Hutchinson reviews George Steiner's The Poetry of Thought: 'If the relationship between philosophy and poetry underlies much of Steiner’s work, The Poetry of Thought tackles the Arnoldian “and” head-on. From Parmenides and Heraclitus to Sartre and Heidegger, Steiner traces a typically ambitious arc through the history of Western thought, arguing that what defines philosophy is its manner as much as its matter.' Hutchinson adds, 'Steiner sees in Wittgenstein’s paratactic, aphoristic style a conscious attempt at “counter-rhetoric”.'

'[William] Gass is also a philosopher. He did his graduate work at Cornell after serving in the Navy for three years during World War II. ... The effects of his admiration [for Wittgenstein] are most evident in the nuts and bolts of his own prose style. He has made sure to weed out the cant and jargon from his sentences. But even more revealing is his handling of the evidence. It’s not just that every abstraction is matched to a concrete example; whether he’s writing fiction or nonfiction, Gass will connect an initial example to a second one, and from the second will derive a third.'

From an IEET blog, 'The Hierarchy of Exclusion in “Ender’s Game” — a starting point for thinking about personhood'

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