How Literature Changes the Way We Think

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9781441103208: How Literature Changes the Way We Think

The capacity of the arts and the humanities, and of literature in particular, to have a meaningful societal impact has been increasingly undervalued in recent history. Both humanists and scientists have tended to think of the arts as a means to represent the world via imagination. Mack maintains that the arts do not merely describe our world but that they also have the unique and underappreciated power to make us aware of how we can change accustomed forms of perception and action.

Mack explores the works of prominent writers and thinkers, including Nietzsche, Foucault, Benjamin, Wilde, Roth, and Zizek, among others, to illustrate how literature interacts with both people and political as well as scientific issues of the real world. By virtue of its distance from the real world-its virtuality-the aesthetic has the capability to help us explore different and so far unthinkable forms of action and thereby to resist the repetition and perpetuation of harmful practices such as stereotyping, stigma, exclusion, and the exertion of violence.

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About the Author:

Michael Mack (PhD. Cambridge) is Reader in English Literature and Medical Humanities at Durham University, UK. Formerly he has been a Visiting Professor at Syracuse University, a Fellow at the University of Sydney, and lecturer and research fellow at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity (Continuum, 2010), German Idealism and the Jew (University of Chicago Press, 2003), which was shortlisted for The Koret Jewish Book Award 2004, and Anthropology as Memory (Niemeyer, 2001, Conditio Judaica Series).

Review:

“According to Michael Mack's 2012 book "How Literature Changes the Way We Think", Literature is a disruptive force, breaking up our fiction about the world we live in and showing us new possibilities for the future. For example, Literature has the capacity to change our thinking about ageing by undermining the opposition between birth and ageing.” ?Doreen Umutesi, AllAfrica.com

“The central thesis of Mack's bold and timely defence of the arts and humanities, How Literature Changes the Way We Think, is that literature has a ‘ unique and underappreciated capacity to make us aware of how we can change accustomed forms of perception and action' (p. 1). Mack's apologia for literature is a refreshing alternative to contemporary arguments for the social and political relevance of art's representational work.” ?Simon Calder, University of Minnesota, English Studies

“How Literature Changes the Way We Think comprises interesting, sometimes fascinating inroads toward a diagnosis of the problems of representation, and the effort to describe a theory avoiding these pitfalls seems a helpful project.” ?Sean Gerard Ferrier, Contemporary Political Theory

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