Off the Shelf: Rita Felski

Rita Felski, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, "Uses of Literature." Wiley-Blackwell.

July 18, 2008 — "Books are not … just objects, not simply random things stranded among countless other things," writes Rita Felski. "Bristling with meaning, layered with resonance, they come before us as multi-layered symbols of beliefs and values; they stand for something larger than themselves."

"Uses of Literature" bridges the gap between literary theory and common-sense beliefs about why we read literature.

It explores the diverse motives and mysteries of why we read and offers four ways of thinking about why we read literature — for recognition, enchantment, knowledge and shock. Felski argues for a new "phenomenology" in literary studies that incorporates the historical and social dimensions of reading.

Felski is director of the comparative literature program and associate editor of New Literary History. Her other books include "Beyond Feminist Aesthetics," "The Gender of Modernity," "Doing Time: Feminist Theory and Postmodern Culture" and "Literature After Feminism." She also is editor of "Rethinking Tragedy," published in January 2008.

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