First Lessons: Gilles Deleuze and the Concept of Literature
For students of literature — beginners or old hands — the obligatory detour through theory and philosophy has always been dangerous. This is not simply because of the importance that Continental thought and philosophy have assumed in the past forty years in literary studies; generations of readers had to maneuver through the philosophical influences of aesthetic theory, for example, before the arrival of Derrida and the philosophical tradition he represented. It is, rather, the negotiation between disciplines that makes this passage difficult. Tied to the beginner’s question of why such a move through another discipline rather than one’s own is the more practical one: how can philosophy say something about literature and vice versa? How can one tradition, with its concepts, problems and history possibly help us understand another? Framing the question in these terms — in terms of the question ‘How?’ — is a practical move. Such a manner of approaching the question might cause more than one reader to grimace, since, after all, from the point of view of the education world, practical questions seem always to be the best way to put an end to studies in literature and philosophy. So often, the practical question of students echoes that of their parents (who pay the bill for such practically minded students’ education) and administrators: How can something as quaint as literature and philosophy be of any use to us today?
KeywordsPractical Question American Literature French Philosophy Aesthetic Theory Opening Page
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