How Literature Changes the Way We Think

By | December 7, 2011

Continuum author Michael Mack (Reader in English Literature and Medical Humanities, Durham University, UK) makes an important and exciting contribution to the emerging field of "medical humanities" with How Literature Changes the Way We Think, currently available in the US and coming to the UK in February. The book is not only a stirring defense of the capacity for literature and the arts to have a meaningful impact on society. Mack goes further to argue that literature is more than a means of representing the world via imagination. It does not simply describe our world but in fact can change it by alerting us to the malleability of accustomed forms of perception and action, and allowing us to encounter actions and ideas that would otherwise seem unthinkable. Mack explores the thought and work of an impressive array of prominent writers and thinkers, including Nietzsche, Foucault, Žižek, Walter Benjamin, Philip Roth, Kazuo Ishiguro and Oscar Wilde, among others, to make his compelling case about why literature and the humanities remain as essential as ever to human society in the 21st century.

"This is a subtle, learned, and at the same time radical investigation of the powers of literature. Dr. Mack challenges us to think afresh. Through his analyses, which range from philosophers such as Spinoza and Benjamin to novelists such as Ishiguru and Doctorow, he demonstrates the new social, ethical and emotional possibilities opened up by the activity of literature." — Dame Gillian Beer, FBA, King Edward VII Professor Emeritus of English Literature and former President of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, UK

"Michael Mack supplies an answer to the increased doubts about the role of the humanities. His claim is that literature changes the way we see and act; that it is one of the aspects of our cultural life that shapes who we are on the most elemental level. This confrontation with post-modern theory is part of the newly evolving field of the medical humanities and will be a critical contribution to the debates about how and why we teach literature." — Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Emory University, USA.


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