La Guerra Dei Poveri:A Response to A. J. Nickerson
What the author of this essay-review says about our handling of scholarship on poetry in The Philosophy of Poetry is perhaps true. Literary scholars often accuse us of ignoring their work, just as we at times condemn them for their questionable treatment of philosophical issues. There is a smallness to all this, on both sides, and the effect is almost always to affirm the very disciplinary boundaries we are trying to overcome when telling others that they should read our work.
Fortunately, however, professors of philosophy and literature are generally aware of the unseemliness of denouncing entire disciplines. I am therefore grateful to the reviewer for making it so clear that she dislikes not just this book (even its “ugly footnoting”) but also the whole of analytic philosophy. What the reviewer misses, however, is the way in which the volume uses poetry to handle philosophical issues. The author appears unaware of the concerns and puzzles that animate the discipline, and so she perhaps isn’t able to see the work that is being done in certain chapters: work on meaning, on the definition of art, on the nature of emotion, on the nature of truth, on the ontology of the work of art, and so forth. The reviewer does make a number of insightful claims—some are genuinely helpful—about what “meaningfulness” and “knowledge” amount to in the context of poetry scholarship, but her employment of these terms displays a thorough insensitivity to their function in philosophical contexts. Be that as it may, to state the matter briefly but still, I think, fairly: the author misses all the philosophy in this philosophy book. And in doing this, might she not be guilty of precisely what she condemns us for in respect to literary studies? [End Page 315]
I am grateful for the time spent on this lively and provocative review, but so much is missed here that at its close one can be forgiven for thinking, “Physician, heal thyself!” [End Page 316]