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J. Landy, How to Do Things with Fictions

J. Landy, How to Do Things with Fictions

Publié le par Matthieu Vernet

Compte rendu publié dans Acta fabula (Novembre 2014, vol. 15, n° 9) : "La philosophie morale de la littérature " par Pierre Vinclair.




Joshua Landy, How to Do Things with Fictions


Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012.

EAN 9780195188561.

266 p.

Prix 55USD

Présentation de l'éditeur :

Why does Mark's Jesus speak in parables? Why does Plato's Socrates make bad arguments? Why are Beckett's novels so inscrutable? And why don't stage magicians even pretend to summon spirits anymore? In a series of captivating chapters on Mark, Plato, Beckett, Mallarmé, and Chaucer, Joshua Landy not only answers these questions but explains why they are worth asking in the first place.

Witty and approachable, How to Do Things with Fictions challenges the widespread assumption that literary texts must be informative or morally improving in order to be of any real benefit. It reveals that authors are sometimes best thought of not as entertainers or as educators but as personal trainers of the brain, putting their willing readers through exercises designed to fortify specific mental capacities, from form-giving to equanimity, from reason to faith.

Delivering plenty of surprises along the way--that moral readings of literature can be positively dangerous; that the parables were deliberately designed to be misunderstood; that Plato knowingly sets his main character up for a fall; that metaphor is powerfully connected to religious faith; that we can sustain our beliefs even when we suspect them to be illusions--How to Do Things with Fictions convincingly shows that our best allies in the struggle for more rigorous thinking, deeper faith, richer experience, and greater peace of mind may well be the imaginative writings sitting on our shelves.

Joshua Landy teaches French at Stanford University, where he co-founded and co-directs the Initiative in Philosophy and Literature. He is author of Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust and coeditor, with Michael Saler, of The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age.

Table des matières :


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fiction
Formative Fictions
The Temporality of the Reading Experience
In Spite of Everything, a Role for Meaning
A Polite Aside to Historians
The Value of Formative Fictions


Chapter One-Chaucer: Ambiguity and Ethics
Prudence or Oneiromancy?
A Parody of Didacticism
Preaching to the Converted
The Asymmetry of 'Imaginative Resistance'
Virtue Ethics and Gossip
Positive Views


Chapter Two-Mark: Metaphor and Faith
Rhetorical Theories
Five Variables, Six Readings
Deliberate Opacity
The Vision of Mark
From Him Who Has Not
To Him Who Has
The Syrophenician Woman
The Formative Circle
Metaphor and Faith
Theological Ramifications
A Parable about Parables
Getting It Wrong By Getting It Right
Coda: The Secular Kingdom
Chapter Three-Mallarmé: Irony and Enchantment
Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin
Exorcisms and Experiments
Science and Wonder
Lucid Illusions
Stéphane Mallarmé
The Spell of Poetry
Setting the Scene
A Replacement Faith
How to Do Things with Verses
A Corner of Order
The Magic of Rhyme
A Training in Enchantment
A Sequence of States
The Birth of Modernism from the Spirit of Re-Enchantment


Chapter Four-Plato: Fallacy and Logic
A Platonic Coccyx
Ascent and Dissent
The Developmental Hypothesis
Dubious Dialectic
Pericles, Socrates and Plato
The Gorgias Unravels
The Uses of Oratory
Was Gorgias Refuted?
Spiritual Exercises: Seven Points in Conclusion
Appendix: Just How Bad is the Pericles Argument?

Chapter Five-Beckett: Antithesis and Tranquillity
Bringing Philosophy to an End
One Step Forward
Finding the Self to Lose the Self
An Irreducible Singleness
Res Cogitans
Solutions and Dissolutions
Two Failures
Negative Anthropology
The Beckettian Spiral
An End to Everything?
Fail Better
Glimpses of the Ideal
Two Caveats

Works Cited