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The author of the classic philosophical treatment of love reflects on the trajectory, over decades, of his thoughts on love and other topics.

In 1984, Irving Singer published the first volume of what would become a classic and much acclaimed trilogy on love. Trained as an analytical philosopher, Singer first approached his subject with the tools of current philosophical methodology. Dissatisfied by the initial results (finding the chapters he had written “just dreary and unproductive of anything”), he turned to the history of ideas in philosophy and the arts for inspiration. He discovered an immensity of speculation and artistic practice that reached wholly beyond the parameters he had been trained to consider truly philosophical. In his three-volume work The Nature of Love, Singer tried to make sense of this historical progression within a framework that reflected his precise distinction-making and analytical background. In this new book, he maps the trajectory of his thinking on love. It is a “partial” summing-up of a lifework: partial because it expresses the author's still unfolding views, because it is a recapitulation of many published pages, because love—like any subject of that magnitude—resists a neatly comprehensive, all-inclusive formulation. Adopting an informal, even conversational, tone, Singer discusses, among other topics, the history of romantic love, the Platonic ideal, courtly and nineteenth-century Romantic love; the nature of passion; the concept of merging (and his critique of it); ideas about love in Freud, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dewey, Santayana, Sartre, and other writers; and love in relation to democracy, existentialism, creativity, and the possible future of scientific investigation. Singer's writing on love embodies what he has learned as a contemporary philosopher, studying other authors in the field and “trying to get a little further.” This book continues his trailblazing explorations.

Mythic themes and philosophical probing in film as an art form, as seen in works of Preston Sturges, Jean Cocteau, Stanley Kubrick, and various other filmmakers.

Film is the supreme medium for mythmaking. The gods and heroes of mythology are both larger than life and deeply human; they teach us about the world, and they tell us a good story. Similarly, our experience of film is both distant and intimate. Cinematic techniques—panning, tracking, zooming, and the other tools in the filmmaker's toolbox—create a world that is unlike reality and yet realistic at the same time. We are passive spectators, but we also have a personal relationship with the images we are seeing. In Cinematic Mythmaking, Irving Singer explores the hidden and overt use of myth in various films and, in general, the philosophical elements of a film's meaning. Mythological themes, Singer writes, perform a crucial role in cinematic art and even philosophy itself. Singer incisively disentangles the strands of different myths in the films he discusses. He finds in Preston Sturges's The Lady Eve that Barbara Stanwyck's character is not just the biblical Eve but a liberated woman of our times; Eliza Doolittle in the filmed versions of Shaw's Pygmalion is not just a statue brought to life but instead a heroic woman who must survive her own dark night of the soul. The protagonist of William Wyler's The Heiress and Anieszka Holland's Washington Square is both suffering Dido and an awakened Amazon. Singer reads Cocteau's films—including La Belle et la Bête, Orphée, and The Testament of Orpheus—as uniquely mythological cinematic poetry. He compares Kubrickean and Homeric epics and analyzes in depth the self-referential mythmaking of Federico Fellini in many of his movies, including 81⁄2. The aesthetic and probing inventiveness in film, Singer shows us, restores and revives for audiences in the twenty-first century myths of creation, of the questing hero, and of ideals—both secular and religious—that have had enormous significance throughout the human search for love and meaning in life.

The development of themes, motifs, and techniques in Bergman's films, from the first intimations in the early work to the consummate resolutions in the final movies.

Known for their repeating motifs and signature tropes, the films of Ingmar Bergman also contain extensive variation and development. In these reflections on Bergman's artistry and thought, Irving Singer discerns distinctive themes in Bergman's filmmaking, from first intimations in the early work to consummate resolutions in the later movies. Singer demonstrates that while Bergman's output is not philosophy on celluloid, it attains an expressive and purely aesthetic truthfulness that can be considered philosophical in a broader sense.

Through analysis of both narrative and filmic effects, Singer probes Bergman's mythmaking and his reliance upon the magic inherent in his cinematic techniques. Singer traces throughout the evolution of Bergman's ideas about life and death, and about the possibility of happiness and interpersonal love. In the overtly self-referential films that he wrote or directed (The Best Intentions, Fanny and Alexander, Sunday's Children) as well as the less obviously autobiographical ones (including Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, and the triad that begins with Through a Glass Darkly) Bergman investigates problems in his existence and frequently reverts to childhood memories. In such movies as Smiles of a Summer Night, Scenes from a Marriage, and Saraband, Bergman draws upon his mature experience and depicts the troubled relationships between men who are often weak and women who are made to suffer by the damaged men with whom they live. In Persona, Cries and Whispers, and other works, his experiments with the camera are uniquely masterful. Inspecting the panorama of Bergman's art, Singer shows how the endless search for human contact motivates the content of his films and reflects Bergman's profound perspective on the world.

The final volume of Singer's trilogy discusses ideas about love in the work of writers ranging from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Tolstoy to Freud, Proust, D. H. Lawrence, Shaw, and others in the contemporary world.

Irving Singer's trilogy The Nature of Love has been called "majestic" (New York Times Book Review), "monumental" (Boston Globe), "one of the major works of philosophy in our century" (Nous), "wise and magisterial" (Times Literary Supplement), and a "masterpiece of critical thinking [that] is a timely, eloquent, and scrupulous account of what, after all, still makes the world go round" (Christian Science Monitor).

In the third volume, Singer examines the pervasive dialectic between optimistic idealism and pessimistic realism in modern thinking about the nature of love. He begins by discussing "anti-Romantic Romantics" (focusing on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Tolstoy), influential nineteenth-century thinkers whose views illustrate much of the ambiguity and self-contradiction that permeate thinking about love in the last hundred years. He offers detailed studies of Freud, Proust, Shaw, D. H. Lawrence, and Santayana, and he maps the ideas about love in Continental existentialism, particularly those of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Singer finally envisages a future of cooperation between pluralistic humanists and empirical scientists. This last volume of Singer's trilogy does not pretend to offer the final word on the subject, any more than do most of the philosophers he discusses, but his masterful work can take its place beside their earlier investigations into these vast and complex questions.

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