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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literaturecontains twenty-three newly commissioned essays by major philosophers and literary scholars that investigate literature as a form of attention to human life. Various forms of attention are considered under the headings of Genres (from Ancient Epic to the Novel and Contemporary Experimental Writing), Periods (from Realism and Romanticism to Postcolonialism), Devices and Powers (Imagination, Plot, Character, Style, and Emotion), and Contexts and Uses (in relation to inquiry, morality, and politics). In each case, the effort is to track and evaluate how specific modes and works of imaginative literature answer to important needs of human subjects for orientation, the articulation of interest in life, and the working through of emotion, within situations that are both sociohistorical and human. Hence these essays show how and why literature matters in manifold ways in and for human cultural life, and they show how philosophers and imaginative literary writers have continually both engaged with and criticized each other.
Richard Eldridge is Professor of Philosophy at Swarthmore College.