In The Art of Distances, Corina Stan identifies an insistent preoccupation with interpersonal distance in a strand of twentieth-century European and Anglophone literature that includes the work of George Orwell, Paul Morand, Elias Canetti, Iris Murdoch, Walter Benjamin, Annie Ernaux, Günter Grass, and Damon Galgut. Specifically, Stan shows that these authors all engage in philosophical meditations, in the realm of literary writing, on the ethical question of how to live with others and how to find an ideal interpersonal distance at historical moments when there are no obviously agreed-upon social norms for ethical behavior.
Bringing these authors into dialogue with philosophers such as Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Helmuth Plessner, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Luc Nancy, Emmanuel Levinas, Peter Sloterdijk, Guillaume le Blanc, and Pierre Zaoui, Stan shows how the question of the right interpersonal distance became a fundamental one for the literary authors under consideration and explores what forms and genres they proposed in order to convey the complexity of this question. Albeit unknowingly, she suggests, they are engaged in fleshing out what Roland Barthes called “a science, or perhaps an art, of distances.”
Part 1. The Pathos of Distances in a World of Banished People
1. George Orwell’s Critique of Sincerity and the Obligation of Tactlessness
2. The Inferno of Saviors: Notes on the Margin of Elias Canetti’s Lifework
3. A Socialism of Distances: Iris Murdoch on the Difficulties of Wise Love
Part 2. The World in Me: The Distantiality of Everyday Life
4. In Search of a Whole Self: Benjamin’s Childhood Fragments
5. Annie Ernaux’s Diaries of the Outside
6. Günter Grass’s Century
7. Damon Galgut on Emptying Oneself for Sleep
“The Art of Distances is an excellent book that uniquely demonstrates Stan’s amazing talent both as a reader of fictional texts and as a philosophical synthesizer. She delivers compelling arguments and elegant readings of the texts, making her thesis bold and original in its scope.” —Jean-Michel Rabaté, fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and author of The Pathos of Distance
“This book is a veritable tour de force of writers and critics spanning across the entire twentieth century. The chapters are meticulously researched and presented, each containing a wealth of information that presents the authors in a new light. Stan has done an impressive, even extraordinary amount of work in her labors to assemble so many disparate authors, philosophers, and critics.” —Verena Andermatt Conley, author of Spatial Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and World-Space in French Cultural Theory
An electronic version of this book is freely available, thanks to the support of libraries working with Knowledge Unlatched. KU is a collaborative initiative designed to make high-quality books open access for the public good. More information about the initiative and links to the open-access version can be found at www.knowledgeunlatched.org.
To visit the KU edition of The Art of Distances: Ethical Thinking in Twentieth-Century Literature visit https://doi.org/10.21985/n2-t24c-kv77.