Fiction Sets You Free

Fiction Sets You Free : Literature, Liberty, and Western Culture

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In what can only be called a genuine intellectual adventure, Russell Berman raises fundamental questions long ignored by literary scholars: Why does literature command our attention at all? Why would society want to cultivate a sphere of activity devoted to the careful study of literary fiction? Written as a tonic to what he calls the debilitating cultural relativism of contemporary literary studies, "Fiction Sets You Free" advances the innovative argument that literature and capitalism, rather than representing merely commercialization, actually belie a long and positive association: literary autonomy is a central part of modern Western culture, thoroughly intertwined with political democracy and free-market capitalism. Berman particularly challenges the issue of periodization, in which current scholarship emphasizes historical context over the integrity of a literary work and thus neglects the capacity of literature to remain interesting in other times and contexts. By moving from the origins of human language through the development of written alphabets and sacred texts, eventually probing the role of public literature in the creation of community, Berman elegantly and cogently surveys the intellectual landscape of Western societies. By giving us the license to dream and envision other worlds, literature sets us more

Product details

  • Hardback | 270 pages
  • 157.48 x 231.14 x 22.86mm | 476.27g
  • University of Iowa Press
  • Iowa, United States
  • English
  • Revised.
  • 1587296047
  • 9781587296048
  • 2,431,739

Review quote

""Fiction Sets You Free "is an eloquent, impassioned, and compelling defense of the role of literature in history. Berman demonstrates that what makes literature unique is not its reflection of the culture that produced it, but that it provides an alternative to empirical fact, putting forward the possibilities latent in any historical situation. In transcending empiricism, literature is the discourse of the exception, of what might have been rather than what is or was. this is a unique and brilliant book, one that will genuinely alter critical thinking."-Marjorie Perloff, author, "Wittgenstein's Ladder "and "Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy""show more

About Russell A. Berman

Russell Berman is the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University, where he holds appointments in the Department of German Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature. He is the author of seven books, including Modern Culture and Critical Theory: Art, Politics, and the Legacy of the Frankfurt School and Enlightenment or Empire: Colonial Discourse in German more

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