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The Phenomenology of Love and Reading


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1 Phenomenology and Literature 2 The Erotic Reduction 3 The Lover's Advance Interlude 4 Empathy 5 Attention 6 Being Overwhelmed Conclusion Bibliography Index

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Explores literature's relationship to our ethical lives through the philosophical writings of Jean-Luc Marion.

About the Author

Cassandra Falke is Professor of English Literature and Culture at the University of Tromso, Norway. Her previous books include Literature by the Working Class: English Autobiography, 1820-1848 (2013) and, as editor, Intersections in Christianity and Critical Theory (2010). She has also published articles about English Romanticism, literary theory, and liberal arts education.


To write on phenomenology and literature requires an author who reads with exacting delicacy and who construes demanding philosophy with a high level of clarity. Cassandra Falke is just this person. The Phenomenology of Love and Reading is a book of twofold significance: at once an invitation to read literature with Jean-Luc Marion, eminent phenomenologist of love, and a study of what is involved when we read-really read-narrative fiction and poetry. * Kevin Hart, Edwin B Kyle Professor of Christian Studies, University of Virginia, USA *
In order for we readers to know a literary text on its own, multiple terms, our love has to be in play: this is the key insight that Cassandra Falke develops in this clearly written, illuminating, and extraordinarily wise book. Through a series of incisive chapters that unfold Jean-Luc Marion's rich phenomenology of love in relation to the historical features of the phenomenological method, various phenomenologies of reading, and contemporary literary theory, Falke persuasively offers not only an argument for but a performance of what she terms "charitable reading": an approach to reading characterized by specifically "erotic" modes of receptivity and attention to the literary text's burgeoning givenness. Falke shows how and why the loving reader's experiences with the text's phenomenality form the way he or she encounters embodied persons outside the text, such that erotic reading becomes a pedagogy of love. Falke's book invites us to understand nothing less than how the knowing we achieve through loving reading is integral to the loving relations that constitute the very flesh and blood of our lives. * Stephen E. Lewis, Professor and Chair of English Department, Franciscan University of Steubenville, USA *
One of the professed goals of this work is to bring the theology of French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion (b. 1946) together with literary criticism. Marion is an important thinker in the phenomenological tradition, and in recent times he has become one of the leading voices in contemporary theology. But until now the relevance of Marion's work had not reached the field of literary theory, and this book attempts to forge that connection. Falke (English literature and culture, Univ. of Tromso, Norway) focuses on the theme of love, which, according to Marion, takes precedence over all other experiences. In the introduction the author writes that "criticism should itself be an act of love"; indeed, it should not be separate from the rest of life, and it should add something to the world. This is because literature expands one, and books provide an "elsewhere" that takes the reader away from ordinary self-possession. And so, it seems, one can cultivate the capacity for love through reading that enhances love's virtues, including attention, empathy, and a willingness to be overwhelmed. Falke reflects thoughtfully on the phenomenology of reading, and shows the relevance of Marion's claim that "erotic reduction" is the key to who one is. Summing Up: Recommended. * CHOICE *
For Falke-love is a submission of the ego to the other, not in submitting to the domination by the other, but in putting aside one's ego desires, and opening one's self to becoming changed by the other-whether or not the other reciprocates the love ... That in short form is the challenge Falke poses to the reader of her book: allow at least the literary book, if not the theoretical and argumentative book, for the most part, to change your inner self, rather than coming to the book with a sense of a need to control, own, and dominate. Moreover, not only does Falke construct a theoretical structure for developing her thesis of reading as erotic love, as a form of allowing the book to speak to you in its own terms, from its own frame of reference, Falke also, provides a practicum for how to perform the erotic reduction of a text ... The adoption of erotic reduction is a logical necessity, even when psychologically difficult, if our goal is to get inside the mind of the book, as it were. * Literature and Theology *
Falke's book reaffirmed my conviction of the high aesthetic significance of Marion's phenomenology. Exemplary are the lovely pages she devotes to Marion's discovery of everyday life's richness ... Phenomenology conjoins art and life-this is Falke's chief, invaluable insight. * The Heythrop Journal *

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