The Deliverance of Others [ePub]

by David Palumbo-Liu

The Deliverance of Others is a compelling reappraisal of the idea that narrative literature can expand readers' empathy. What happens if, amid the voluminous influx of otherness facilitated by globalization, we continue the tradition of valorizing literature for bringing the lives of others to us, admitting them into our world and valuing the difference that they introduce into our lives? In this new historical situation, are we not forced to determine how much otherness is acceptable, as opposed to how much is excessive, disruptive, and disturbing?The influential literary critic David Palumbo-Liu suggests that we can arrive at a sense of responsibility toward others by reconsidering the discourses of sameness that deliver those unlike ourselves to us. Through virtuoso readings of novels by J. M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Ruth Ozeki, he shows how notions that would seem to offer some basis for commensurability between ourselves and others—ideas of rationality, the family, the body, and affect—become less stable as they try to accommodate more radical types of otherness. For Palumbo-Liu, the reading of literature is an ethical act, a way of thinking through our relations to others.

David Palumbo-Liu is Professor and Director of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier; the editor of The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions; and a coeditor of Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture, also published by Duke University Press.

"Certain to be an important and influential book, The Deliverance of Others examines the profound challenges that the 'contemporary' historical moment poses to literary novel-writing in the early twenty-first century, when the fine line between a 'sufficient' and an 'excessive' measure of otherness seems to have been trespassed, when, as David Palumbo-Liu puts it in his extraordinary reading of J. M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, readers of the novel are asked to imagine themselves confronting a 'tidal wave of difference' that exceeds the specific capacities of realist form and the more general compact that literary writing offers to strike between historical conditions and the liberal, sympathetic imagination."—Ian Baucom, author of Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History

"In The Deliverance of Others, the distinguished critic David Palumbo-Liu tackles broad questions of aesthetics and ethics in this 'age of otherness and virtual proximity.' By contrasting utilitarian notions of political economy with those of a system based on interdependent and ethically connected communities, he goes to the essential: How do we define truth in relation to reason and ethics and how do we understand the ways that literature and literary composition resonate differently in different global spaces, each with varying notions of rationality and choice?"—Françoise Lionnet, coeditor of The Creolization of Theory

11.10.2011

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