PUBLIC TALK: The Question of Truth in Literature: Die poetische Auffassung der Welt
|The Question of Truth in Literature: Die poetische Auffassung der Welt
A public lecture by Richard Eldridge, the Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell Professor of Philosophy, Swarthmore College, USA.
The study of literature has always had a central place in advanced curricula, at least if one includes rhetoric, grammar, composition, and ancient and modern philology within it. One would scarcely be thought to be an educated person if one lacked an acquaintance with the classics of one’s native language tradition: in English - Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, Eliot, Dickens, and all the rest.
Yet at the same time, many are now uneasy about the value of literature and its study. Compared with the natural and social sciences, where both clearer methods and results that are of practical importance are often in view, reading, writing, and studying literature can seem a matter more of entertainment and social capital than a serious business. Both funding and enrollments in humanities courses have dropped over the past forty years, and within departments of literature study of classic texts has often given way to broader forms of Cultural Studies that resemble sociology rather than being centrally concerned with literary art. Why, then, should we study literature at all, especially at university level? Does literature in any way present important truths that are worth serious study?
The question of truth in literature has several interrelated senses: can literature present (significant) truths at all?; how does its presentation of truths (if it exists) have to do with its manner of presentation (with literary language)?; and is the presentation of truth a central aim of literary art? After surveying and criticizing a variety of Fregean and neo-Fregean views (Frege, Lamarque and Olsen, Walton) that reject the very possibility of literary truth and a variety of anti-Fregean views (Goodman, Heidegger) that endorse it, but in misleading terms that do not say enough about literary language, Professor Eldridge will argue that Hegel, in his remarks on literary imagination in his Lectures on Fine Art shows illuminatingly how literary writers sometimes arrive (and centrally aspire to arrive) at a distinctively poetic grasp of the world: die poetische Auffassung der Welt.
The talk will conclude with some brief remarks on the contemporary novel.
Cost: Free, but RSVP required to http://www.ias.uwa.edu.au/lectures/eldridge
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