Philosophy in Literature: Shakespeare, Voltaire, Tolstoy & Proust

Philosophy in Literature: Shakespeare, Voltaire, Tolstoy & Proust

Philosophy in Literature: Shakespeare, Voltaire, Tolstoy & Proust

Philosophy in Literature: Shakespeare, Voltaire, Tolstoy & Proust

Excerpt

This book CONTAINS the text of four lectures given at Wayne State University in April 1961 under the auspices of the English Department. The lectures attempt to show by analyzing four literary masterpieces that philosophy and literature can be combined to their mutual enrichment, not to their mutual impoverishment, as some critics and philosophers maintain. My central problem is to elucidate the aesthetic roles that philosophical ideas play in the literary works that contain them. One reason for my having chosen these particular works is that each of the examples--Candide, Anna Karenina, Hamlet, and A la Recherche du Temps Perdu --illustrates a different artistic treatment of philosophical ideas. Another reason for my choice is that each of the works invites a fresh interpretation which philosophical analysis can best provide. Each essay, therefore, purports to be a new reading of the particular work analyzed. The essay on Hamlet also presents and criticizes certain traditional readings of the play that reduce its philosophy to some aspect of the characterization, dialog, imagery, or plot; thus, in this essay much of the Hamlet criticism serves as a paradigm of how philosophy should not be joined with literature.

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