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Book Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory

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Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Peter Swirski(Author)

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"Of Literature and Knowledge looks ... like an important advance in this new and very important subject... literature is about to become even more interesting." – Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University.

Framed by the theory of evolution, this colourful and engaging volume presents a new understanding of the mechanisms by which we transfer information from narrative make-believe to real life. Ranging across game theory and philosophy of science, as well as poetics and aesthetics, Peter Swirski explains how literary fictions perform as a systematic tool of enquiry, driven by thought experiments. Crucially, he argues for a continuum between the cognitive tools employed by scientists, philosophers and scholars or writers of fiction.

The result is a provocative study of our talent and propensity for creating imaginary worlds, different from the world we know yet invaluable to our understanding of it. Of Literature and Knowledge is a noteworthy challenge to contemporary critical theory, arguing that by bridging the gap between literature and science we might not only reinvigorate literary studies but, above all, further our understanding of literature.

"...merges a conversational, humorous tone with a disciplined academic attitude that not only enlightens but entertains... fascinating, essential contribution towards a more interdisciplinary understanding of literature, commendable for literary scholars, aestheticians, and philosophers."Philosophy and LiteratureEngaging, challenging... a pleasure to read... an important and stimulating contribution.SubStance...successfully crosses the divide between difficult academic theory and the colloquial idiom of popular speech, and brings into play a range of literary and theoretical reference that is in itself a chief source of pleasure for readers.Joseph Carroll"Of Literature and Knowledge looks like an important advance in this new and very important subject... literature is about to become even more interesting." Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic featured in Canadian Who's Who. He is Amazon's #1 Bestseller in American History and Criticism and in Canadian Literary Criticism. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, and the world's foremost scholar on Stanislaw Lem, he is the author of fifteen award-winning books, including From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005), Literature, Analytically Speaking (2010), American Utopia and Social Engineering (2011), and Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future (2015).

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Book details

  • PDF | 208 pages
  • Peter Swirski(Author)
  • Routledge; 1 edition (January 9, 2007)
  • English
  • 2
  • Science & Math

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Review Text

  • By B. Braschler on August 9, 2007

    When we read a novel what do we stand to gain? Enjoyment? In many cases yes, but is there more to it than the aesthetical value? Why do people love to tell and hear stories so much? If you are interested to learn more about the role of stories in our lives then this book has some surprising answers. The author methodically examines the role of fiction in our search for knowledge. He introduces us to the modelling properties of stories, showing the surprising similarities between literature and mathematics. He demonstrates that many stories have the properties of though experiments not different from those used in philosophy or the natural sciences.Swirski brings his case methodologically, examining both mechanisms and possible outcomes. To do this he draws from a multitude of sources that are as diverse as the aim of the book is interdisciplinary, underlining the generality of the concepts presented. He draws on evolution to explain how it can be that we gain knowledge from though models, and methodologically analyses and rebuts the arguments against their use. He demonstrates the principles using examples from famous works as well as from everyday life. The breadth of examples used is in itself a good reason to read this book as most people - be they students of literature or of the natural sciences - will find much that was unknown to them and even more that is presented in a new and surprising context. The language is easy enough to follow even for readers new to the field (I am myself a scientist, though I love literature) and often gripping or humorous like that of a good novel. At times it is also passionate, e.g. when the author attacks practices in literary research that he considers being misleading.While the book will be especially useful for students and teachers of literature, its interdisciplinary message means that it will be interesting to people of a variety of backgrounds. Indeed this is part of the message of the book, as the author changes our perception of literature. Swirski firmly places literature back on a continuum with the other disciplines, including mathematics, philosophy and science, in the pursuit for knowledge and in doing so he changes the reader's perception of literature profoundly.

  • By Lee on May 14, 2007

    I need to explain that my background in mainly in the social sciences,although I read widely in literature and have recently been involved in an interdisciplinary program called Literature, Science, Society. This is also why I was attracted to buy this book, and, having read it in one evening, I am amazed that such an original, wide ranging and colorfully written book has not yet been the subject of a dozen reviews. You can gauge the quality of this extraordinary little volume by the editorial reviews. The first is by E.O.Wilson, one of the greatest scientists of our times (and controversial too), and the other from Joseph Carroll who, as far as I can tell, is the best critic in the field called literary/evolutionary studies. Both extol the virtues of Swirski's bookand, to my mind, both are right to do so.A few words about the structure of this book. After the introductionwhich, in readability, humor, and clarity of analysis sets the tone for the other 180 pages, come 5 chapters. Chapter 1 "Literature and Knowledge" contains a detailed review of the state of literary research, or, as Swirski makes painfully clear, what goes under the name of literary research. Chapter Two "Literature and Modelling" outlines with the unexpected homologies between literature and mathematics. Chapter 3 "Literature and Evolution" is a model of how interdisciplinary analysis ought to be done: it will certainly form the backbone of the courses I teach. Chapter 4 "Literature and Thought Experiments" is in manyways the linchpin of the book. It covers the many ways in which fictionbehaves like a thought experiment and it also reviews and rebuts the standard criticisms of counterfactual thinking. Chapter 6 "Literature and Game Theory" I found the most challenging but also the most interesting in its application of the matrix tools of the theory of games to literature.All in all I warmly recommend this book to all teachers of literatureand the social sciences and I agree with Professor Carroll that for energy, passion, and the ability to explain difficult concepts in a clear and often funny way, the book has few equals.


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