Literature and (Analytic) Philosophy: A Future for the Humanities?
There has been much talk recently, at least in American academic circles, about the decline of humanistic study; there has also been a fair amount of talk, in literary circles, about the decline of "Theory". With considerably less fanfare, a slow change is taking place which could provide a counterforce mitigating both declines. As "High Theory" is losing their appeal, other voices are being heard, or heard again; there is a place for philosophers predating Husserl and Heidegger; above all, there is a place for methodical and perspicuous argument. In short, we are witnessing a return of philosophical aesthetics. In my 15-minute presentation, I propose to talk briefly about the creation (in which I have been involved) of an interdisciplinary initiative in Literature and Philosophy at Stanford. Taking as my case study the "death of the author", I will argue that it represents a paradigmatic case of fruitful interaction between philosophical and literary writers: after a long period of naive intentionalism, followed by a famous over-reaction in the opposite direction, we finally find ourselves within reach of a dialectical synthesis, largely thanks to Wayne Booth and Alexander Nehamas. With suitable refinements to Booth and Nehamas, the author may now be defined as that plausible variant of the historical writer who might, with singular purpose, have willed or endorsed all the effects produced by the work under given historical conditions. It might not be too bold to assert that the authorship problem has, in its essence, actually been solved. Could such solutions be the future—or at least a future—of the humanities?
Keywords: Literature, Philosophy, Theory, Authorship, Nehamas
Prof Joshua Landy
Professor, French and Italian, Stanford University