Reforming The Humanities: Literature and Ethics from Dante through Modern Times

Hardcover | December 15, 2009

byPeter Levine

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This book combines contemporary ethical theory, literary interpretation, and historical narrative to defend a view of the humanities as a source of moral guidance. Peter Levine argues that moral philosophers should interpret narratives and literary critics should adopt moral positions. His new analysis of Dante’s story of Paolo and Francesca sheds new light on the moral advantages and pitfalls of narratives versus ethical theories and principles.

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This book combines contemporary ethical theory, literary interpretation, and historical narrative to defend a view of the humanities as a source of moral guidance. Peter Levine argues that moral philosophers should interpret narratives and literary critics should adopt moral positions. His new analysis of Dante’s story of Paolo and Fra...

Peter Levine is Director of CIRCLE, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and Research Director of the Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. He is the author of The Future of Democracy: Developing the Next Generation of American Citizens, three other scholarly ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 7.26 × 5.7 × 0.76 inPublished:December 15, 2009Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230621449

ISBN - 13:9780230621442

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Introduction * The Story of Paolo and Francesca * Dante Philosophizes About Francesca’s Case * Poetry and the Emotions in Francesca’s Case * Criticizing Moral Theory * Good and Bad Stories, and Francesca as a Reader * Modern Versions * Consequences * Appendix: The Text of Inferno, Canto V

Editorial Reviews

“Levine has written an erudite, balanced, insightful book integrating moral philosophy and literary interpretation. His choice of Dante's story of Francesca and Paolo is inspired, enabling him to illustrate his methodological and substantive points with a literary masterpiece. If anyone doubts that literature is ethical or that ethics can benefit from literature, this book will prove him wrong. I see here the beginnings of a new and promising humanistic discipline—narrative ethics.”—Colin McGinn, Professor of Philosophy, University of Miami “The virtues of this book are many: it makes clear and compelling arguments for moderate particularism and historicism in moral reasoning, it deftly shows how Dante himself pursued these goals despite his own penchant for moral universalism, it generously but insistently illustrates the limitations of extremity (in particularism, historicism, and also universalism) through wide-ranging references to periods in art, literature, music, and philosophy, and it finally allies itself with a still burgeoning humanistic revival led by literary critics and moral philosophers. The author’s learnedness and intellectual curiosity are on display on every page…Philosophers and literary critics have much more to learn from each other right now. In the humanities, we dwell too much on what to read and how to read, but too little on why to read. This book offers a distinctive and compelling answer to that last question.”—Daniel S. Malachuk, Western Illinois University and author of Perfection, the State, and Victorian Liberalism