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The Philosophy of Generosity in Shakespeare and Marlowe
Forgiving the Gift challenges the tendency to reflexively understand gifts as exchanges, negotiations, and circulations. Lawrence reads plays by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare as informed by an early modern belief in the possibility and even necessity of radical generosity, of gifts that break the cycle of economy and self-interest. The prologue reads Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus to show how the play aligns gift and grace, depicting Faustus’s famous bond as the instrument simultaneously of reciprocal exchange and of damnation. In the introduction, the author frames his argument theoretically by placing Marcel Mauss’s classic essay, The Gift, into dialogue with Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, and Paul Ricoeur to sketch two very different understandings of gift-giving. In the first, described by Mauss, the gift becomes a covert form of exchange. Though Mauss contrasts the gift economy with the market economy, his description of the gift economy nevertheless undermines his own project of discovering in it a basis for social solidarity. In the second understanding of gift exchange, derived from the philosophy of Levinas, the gift expresses the radical asymmetry of ethical concern. Literature and philosophy scholars alike will benefit from the original readings of The Merchant of Venice, Edward II, King Lear, Titus Andronicus, and The Tempest, which constitute the body of the text. These readings find in the plays a generosity that exceeds the social practice of gift-giving, because extraordinarily generous acts of friendship or filial affection survive the collapse of social norms. Antonio inMerchant and the title character in Edward II practice a friendship whose extravagance marks its excess. Lear, on the other hand, brings about his tragedy by attempting to reduce filial love to debt. Titus also discovers a love excessive to social convention when rape and mutilation annihilate his daughter’s cultural value. Finally, Prospero in The Tempest sacrifices power and even his own life for the love of his daughter, giving a gift rendered asymmetrical by both its excess and its secrecy. While proposing new readings of works of Renaissance drama, Forgiving the Gift also questions the model of human life from which many contemporary readings, especially those characterized as new historicist or cultural materialist, grow. In so doing, it addresses questions of how we are to understand literary texts, but also how we are to live with others in the world.
Reclaiming Seducation Theory and Revisiting Oedipus
One of the most important questions in Freud scholarship concerns why, after touting traumatic childhood sexual abuse as the cause of hysteria, Freud turned away from “seduction theory” and instead created the Oedipus complex and the theory of childhood sexuality. In this study, Mary Marcel applies the most recent clinical work on trauma and recovered memory to Freud’s memories. Her use of rhetorical analysis reveals that Freud’s own reasons for abandoning the seduction theory were unfounded and misanalyzed. Marcel relates how, near the beginning of his self-analysis in 1897, Freud recovered a memory of having been molested by his nurse in infancy. Deeply troubled, Freud misread a favorite Greek myth and created the Oedipus complex as a means of regaining a sense of control over himself and the nurse’s crime. Marcel’s book is a comprehensive analysis of both the original Oedipus myths and the Greek myths of father-daughter incest. Closely analyzing Freud’s biography, his early career, his letters to his confidante Wilhelm Fliess and the Oedipus myth in its full complexity, Marcel applies a multiplicity of methods and casts a completely new light on what is in fact Freud’s thorough misrepresentation of both Oedipus and the incest taboo. By analyzing Freud’s arguments, recovered memories from self-analysis and misuse of classical sources, Marcel uncovers why Freud turned away from seduction theory, misconstrued Oedipus, and was unable to cure his own neurosis.
"United as one individual Soul" in Paradise Lost
In this provocative study, Kristin A. Pruitt offers a close reading of pivotal passages and critical concerns in Paradise Lost and examines Milton’s presentation of Adam and Eve’s relationship through the intersections of theology and gender in the poem. By delving into several seventeenth century commentaries on Genesis, Pruitt examines the various depictions of Eve and presents Milton’s Eve and her relationship with Adam. In recent years, scholars have addressed the disparate, often contradictory positions on gender and hierarchy in Paradise Lost. However, Pruitt adds to the discussion another layer: that the dialectic in the poem—the parallels and reversals in structure, imagery, action, and characterization—offer a reading from multiple perspectives and means of understanding one of the poem’s principal messages, which is the dual emphases on individuality versus selfhood and relationship versus union as they illuminate the ideal of unity in diversity.
From God to the Gods
In various texts, Martin Heidegger speaks of god and the gods, but the question of how exactly Heidegger’s thought relates to theology and religion in a broad sense—and to God in a specific sense—remains unclear and in need of careful, philosophical excavation. Ben Vedder provides the first book-length study on Heidegger’s relation to the philosophy of religion, offering greater accessibility into an area that continues to fascinate philosophers, theologians, and all those interested in the philosophy of religion. Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion: From God to the Gods deals intimately with hotly debated topics such as Heidegger’s interpretation of Saint Paul, Nietzsche and the death of God, ontotheology, and Heidegger’s discussion of the “last god,” taking into account the early, middle, and later texts of Heidegger. Significantly, Vedder draws heavily on Heidegger’s The Phenomenology of Religious Life, long available in German, but only recently available to English readers. Vedder describes the tension between religion and philosophy, on the one hand, and religion and poetic expression, on the other. If we grasp religion completely from a philosophical point of view, we tend to neutralize it; but if we conceive it in a simply poetic way, we tend to be philosophically indifferent to it. Vedder demonstrates how Heidegger speaks a “poetry of religion,” a description of humanity’s relationship to the divine, and why Heidegger’s thinking is ultimately a theological thinking. Clearly written and comprehensive in scope, Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion: From God to the Gods represents a major step forward in Heidegger scholarship.
Philosophical and Literary Sightings of the Unseen
In spite of the injunction of philosophy to “know oneself,” we realize that we often act from motives that are obscure; we realize that we often do not fully understand how we feel or react. In short, we understand ourselves as not completely knowable. In attempting to know ourselves, we recognize that some aspects of ourselves—not unlike when we try to know others—are hidden from us. In Hiddenness and Alterity, Mensch seeks to define how the hidden shows itself. In pursuing this issue, Mensch also raises a parallel one regarding the nature and origin of our self-concealment. In developing the theme of the exceeding quality of selfhood, in which part of our self is truly “other,” Mensch presents a unified theory of alterity. He examines how our acknowledgment (and suppression) of the other shapes our thought in ethics, politics, epistemology and theology. Further, he demonstrates such “sightings of the unseen” through original readings of the major figures of the phenomenological movement: Husserl, Levinas, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Nietzsche, Lacan and Fackenheim. He draws further on works by Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad to examine the inherent alterity of our flesh and its implications for the ways in which we relate to the world around us.
From Antiquity to the Middle Ages
While we all seem to talk about politics, few of us actually know how today’s issues fit into the framework of political history. Indeed, as contemporary French philosopher Philippe Nemo points out, much of our Western secondary education is increasingly compartmentalized and provides no overarching framework for thought or any chronological bearings. With this engaging and comprehensive volume, Nemo provides just such context, as he traces the origins of political thinking from the earliest prestates through subsequent eras to allow us to better understand today’s super states. Nemo sets forth the premise that the beginnings of political thought—our political science—can be traced to three primary sources: the philosophers and thinkers of the Greek city-state, Roman law, and the Christian Gospels. He analyzes the pre-Greek prepolitical societies and, leaning on the work of anthropologists, shows that while these societies may have had organizing principles, they did not have the concept of an evolving jurisdiction that governed the people—a concept that is the foundation of political thought. From the Greeks—Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, and the Stoics—Nemo moves on to the Romans. He demonstrates how Cicero, Seneca, and Tacitus added that sense of evolving jurisdiction and shaped political thought for generations to come. Finally, the impact of Christian thought is examined, including a discussion of the “political” ideas present in biblical texts and the attitudes of Christians living under the Roman Empire. Tracing the birth and development of canon law and the influence of numerous Christian thinkers and writers—including Saints Paul, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas—Nemo reveals the additional layer these have added to the history of political organization. By including little-known details and fascinating stories, Nemo makes these historical figures and their thought come alive for us—and, in the process, provides us with an understanding of the foundations upon which the contributions of modern (and postmodern) political thinkers continue to build.
The rich history of the Christian church — with its centuries of dramas, splendors, achievements, and controversies — has long provided a deep source of inspiration for artists. Our own cultural familiarity with the historical aspects of this tradition, however, has waned in recent years. Thus, there exists an odd paradox: works of art have never been more carefully preserved and enhanced; museum exhibitions and visits to view artwork in churches and cathedrals have never been more popular. Yet the historical events and theological ideals depicted in such artistic masterpieces are quite often unknown or misunderstood.
The History of the Church through 100 Masterpieces has been designed to give that deeper meaning back to our experience of these paintings by providing insightful descriptions of the stories they purport to tell. Jacques Duquesne and François Lebrette choose a beautiful array of works — some already well known to us as visual images — to discuss, recounting both the historical events and the religious and cultural background surrounding them.
Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy of Imagination
Imagining Bodies demonstrates how Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of the body has broad implications for philosophy, aesthetics and the social sciences. By examining Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of the body as a dialectic of habituation and creativity, Steeves unveils a deeper relation between self and world that is mediated by images of embodiment. Imagining Bodies is a testament to the importance of the body and the imagination in our perception of reality at a time when the philosophy of the body is associated with metaphysical presence.
The book also amends traditional theories of imagination by suggesting a new approach to determining what it is and how it functions. The imagination is not only extended beyond the realm of fanciful thinking but is restored as being essentially spatial and embodied; there is a primacy of the imaginary within perceptual experience. Further, Steeves demonstrates a stronger connection between Merleau-Ponty’s early works on the body and perception and his later works on aesthetic and social theory and on the ontology of the ‘flesh.’ He also provides a fresh and concrete interpretation of the later philosophy, and explains in what ways the imagining body relates to Being and to the natural environment. Finally, Steeves answers to recent criticisms of Merleau-Ponty’s work from postmodernism, deconstructionism, and feminism, paving the way toward a new understanding of perception and ontology.
A Theoretical Base for Eclectic Practice
Responding to what he perceives as the ever-increasing medicalization of psychotherapy in recent decades, whereby clients are seen as mostly passive recipients of services, Alphons J. Richert offers therapists a collaborative theory that reasserts the importance of a client-centered approach to therapy. To be most useful to the client, he maintains, therapists must not be entirely tied to a particular school or approach, but must have a guiding framework that enables them to work flexibly, engaging in different activities at different times and with different clients, but always with a clear understanding of why they are doing so.
Rooted in a primarily constructivist framework, Richert sets out to develop an approach that uses both existential and narrative thinking regarding the process of change. After each of these approaches — including the similarities and major differences between them — are outlined, a more integrative method can be described, as Richert focuses on the interplay of bodily, lived experience and socially constructed meaning in the creation of the person’s self and world. A client is best served, he argues, when the therapist attends carefully to such meaning-making processes, and a creative synthesis of existential and narrative approaches grants particular emphasis to the human process of meaning-making on both these internal and interpersonal levels.
As a scholar and a practitioner, Richert also discusses the implications of this integrative position for the actual practice of therapy. Acknowledging the variety of needs, difficulties, and complex cases therapists must often address, this approach offers a systematic and purposeful approach to psychotherapy that simultaneously equips the therapist to adapt to the constantly developing therapeutic enterprise and to flexibly engage different clients with a diverse assortment of activities, interventions, and methods of treatment. Integrating Existential and Narrative Therapy will be of special interest to scholars and clinical psychologists who pursue either of these approaches to psychotherapy, as well as to those who seek to enhance a variety of other methodologies.
Levinas and Infinite Responsibility
“The essential theme of my research is the deformalization of the notion of time,” asserted Emmanuel Levinas in a 1988 interview, as he approached the end of his long philosophical career. But while the notion of time is fundamental to the development of every key theme in Levinas’s thought — the idea of the infinite, the issue of the alterity of the other, the face of the other, the question of our ethical relations with other people, the role of fecundity, speech and language, and radical responsibility — his view of time remains obscure. Yael Lin’s exhaustive look at Levinas’s primary texts, both his philosophical writings and his writings on Judaism, brings together his various perspectives on time. Lin concludes that we can, indeed, extract a coherent and consistent conception of time from Levinas’s thought, one that is distinctly political. First situating Levinas’s views against the background of two of his most influential predecessors, Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger, The Intersubjectivity of Time demonstrates that Levinas’s interpretation of time seeks to fill a void created by the egological views those thinkers emphasized. For Levinas, time is neither considered from the perspective of the individual nor is it a public dimension belonging to everyone, but it occurs in the encounter between the self and the other person, and the infinite responsibility inherent in that relation. Yet Levinas himself is surprisingly vague as to how exactly this relation to the other person creates time’s structure or how it is experienced in our everyday lives, and he does not make an explicit move from this intersubjective ethical dimension to the broader collective-political dimension. Lin offers a unique perspective to address this crucial question of the political dimension of Levinas’s project. By turning to Levinas’s talmudic writings and examining aspects of Jewish life, traditions of communal prayer, and ritual, Lin sketches out a multivocal account of time, deepening Levinas’s original claim that time is constituted via social relationships. This imaginative and evocative discussion truly opens the subject to further research.