Redeeming Words and the Promise of Happiness

Redeeming Words and the Promise of Happiness : A Critical Theory Approach to Wallace Stevens and Vladimir Nabokov

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This book offers a philosophical reflection on the nature of language by reading some exemplary works of literature. Drawing on the thought of philosophers-especially Plato, Kant, Hegel, Emerson, Benjamin, Adorno, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, the author argues that language is the bearer of a utopian or messianic promise of happiness, and that by redeeming the revelatory power of words, the two writers in this study are contributing to the redemption of the promise of happiness in a world of reconciled antagonisms and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 238 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.06 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739177516
  • 9780739177518
  • 2,112,826

About David Kleinberg-Levin

David Kleinberg-Levin is currently Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Northwestern more

Review quote

Few if any philosophers have had the courage to engage the formal and conceptual difficulties of literary modernism, particularly its regulating idea that, as the poet Stephane Mallarme argued, language is made of words but not of the things we use words to produce: concepts, propositions, descriptions, and even expressions of feeling. Not that the literary work lacks such things, but the materiality of its language is irreducible to any of these discursive functions. On the contrary, as David Kleinberg-Levin makes clear in this remarkable book, the sensuous material of language is itself the medium of aesthetic experience as well as an experience of world-making that transforms our relation to how things are. He develops his arguments by way of careful critical readings of Wallace Stevens's poetry and poetics and by close attention to the self-reflexive features of Vladimir Nabokov's novels, in which developments of plot and character are always mediated by innovative wordplay and ironic comments on the forms and conventions of fiction-writing that Nabokov himself is employing. Kleinberg-Levin's principal argument is that, contrary to a good deal of received opinion, the prominence of "sensuous materiality" in poetry and fiction is not a symptom of a decadent aestheticism but the fulfillment of a truly philosophical aesthetics: namely, the transfiguration of our everyday world into genuinely desirable forms of life. -- Gerald L. Bruns, University of Notre Dame In this midst of our current troubled world, Kleinberg-Levin opens a hopeful path for us in explaining how language offers us the happiness of the transfiguration of the world that redeems, even when we have lost faith in other sources of redemption. It is even more hopeful in showing us how Wallace Stevens could find truth and transfiguration in the realm of the sensible and imaginal - a redemption faithful to the earth, as Nietzsche put it, and a more modest happiness than attempts at resolving our pain or transcending it. Nabokov, in Kleinberg-Levin's account, playfully explores the possibilities of language to draw upon its own sensuous divinity in the materiality and density of its workings, again providing us with a resource for originating meaning, reconciling the intellectual and sensuous, and intensifying beauty. The poetry and prose examined is rich and engaging. You will feel uplifted by this book. -- Glen A. Mazis, Professor of Humanities and Philosophy, Penn State Harrisburgshow more

Table of contents

Part I. Between Wild Sense and Plain Sense: The Language of Truth in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens Chapter One: Truth Chapter Two: Reason's Folly Chapter Three: The Realism of the Imagination Chapter Four: Word-Play: Language on Holiday Chapter Five: Redemption? Part II. Facing the Surface: Nabokov After Mallarme Chapter Six: Modernism Chapter Seven: Mischievous Predecessors Chapter Eight: Transparencies and Metamorphoses: Nabokov's Language Games Chapter Nine: When the Promise of Happiness Appears: Redeeming the Dust on the Surface Chapter Ten: Paradise of Memory and Imaginationshow more

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