Ignorance

Literature and agnoiology

Author: Andrew Bennett

This book argues that ignorance is part of the narrative and poetic force of literature, as well as an important aspect of its thematic focus: ignorance is what literary texts are about. The author argues that the dominant conception of literature since the Romantic period has involved an often unacknowledged engagement with the experience of not knowing. From Wordsworth and Keats to George Eliot and Charles Dickens, from Henry James to Joseph Conrad, from Elizabeth Bowen to Philip Roth and Seamus Heaney, writers have been fascinated and compelled by the question of ignorance, including their own. The book argues that there is a politics and ethics, as well as a poetics, of ignorance: literature's agnoiology, its acknowledgement of the limits of what we know both of ourselves and of others, engages with the possibility of democracy and the ethical, and allows us to begin to conceive of what it might mean to be human.

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