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Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life (Alexander Rosenthal Lectures)

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807041093
ISBN-10: 0807041092
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Nussbaum (ethics, Univ. of Chicago) describes the social purposes of the realistic novel, using concepts of empathy and identification to explain the worlds of Hard Times, Native Son, and Maurice. She writes out of the multicultural, feminist, and liberal traditions and calls for a value-based judgment of economic and social development. Nussbaum works through a theory of private emotions, showing how they pertain to and influence public actions. The heart of her inquiry concerns the use of literary feelings and techniques to enlighten and inform legal reasoning. She considers questions of race, class, and gender as important aspects of public policy. This would make a fine selection for this election season. Recommended for public and academic libraries.?Gene Shaw, NYPL
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Timely and urgent. . . . Ms. Nussbaum's appeal to the outlook of fiction as a model for judicial and social policy is bracingly utopian and immensely heartening. --Morris Dickstein, The New York Times Book Review

"No one has made a better case for the importance of literary and humanistic education to the public life of the nation. Martha Nussbaum's new book should be required reading for every member of Congress." --Stanley Fish, author of Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change

"Nussbaum argues elegantly that the novel, by engaging our sympathy in the contemplation of lives different from ours, expands our imaginative capabilities so we may better make those judgments that public life demands of us. . . . Nussbaum's thesis . . . deserves to be shouted from the rooftops-like Whitman's Song of Myself." --Kirkus Reviews

"Nussbaum fascinatingly argues that the so-called 'reasoning mind' has blinded us from that all-too-obvious aspect of being a human animal-our emotions." --Raul Nino, New City

"Nussbaum is one of our profound contemporary thinkers. . . . We do not know whether or not reading novels really does make people more humane [but] here is the strongest argument yet published." --Keith Oatley, Toronto, Ontario Globe & Mail
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Product Details

  • Series: Alexander Rosenthal Lectures
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807041092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807041093
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John H. Teeple on November 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book alongside Rorty's "Achieving Our Country." Both are concerned with similar themes; I was interested especially in how both authors addressed the relevance of literature in shaping our moral and political beliefs. But whereas Rorty's consideration of the moral value of literature is limited to a contrast with deconstructive approaches to literature, Nussbaum takes a more detailed approach. Using concrete studies of both works of fiction (Richard Wright's "Native Son" and several works by Dickens are featured prominently) and legal cases to reveal how a sense of the particular is developed and maintained through the reading of fiction, and may be applied to moral and judicial reasoning. Being attuned to particulars, she argues, allows for sympathetic identification (with characters in novels, and with defendants in trials), and thus a sense of compassion and mercy. This short, easy to read book is, I think, a good introduction to her work on both law and literature (subjects she teaches on at Chicago) -- the relation between which is developed further, in greater detail, in both "Love's Knowledge" and "Sex and Social Justice."
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In this short book the author argues for the importance of literature as an essential element in public rationality, and uses Hard Time by Dickens, Native Son by Richard Wright and Maurice by E.M. Forster, and concludes with Whitman's poem. She argues against the common misconceptions of exclusivity between literary imaginations and economic rationality and of the emotion as an undisciplined sentimentality, pernicious to legal mind. The author advocates Adam Smith's concept of "judicious spectator", and the concept of "equalizer"--incorporating empathetic participation and external assessment, as can be found in the literature, "playing back and forth between general and separateness" through the historical and social context of the fiction and separate characters. In "poets judge" and "attesting sympathy", the author quotes Whitman, to advocate for the equitable judgment for human complexities as well as the particular cases, and to protect human vulnerability. It was not an easy book to read, however, concepts are presented repeatedly, through those three books, and it definitely helped that I had read Native Son and Maurice with great joy and lesson.
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A very important book that focuses on how a number of classic novels can inform the work of judges. (These started as presentations Nussbaum made to judges if I recall correctly.)
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awesome quality
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