The second part of the book focuses on three regional branches of semiotics: biosemiotics, picture analysis, and the theory of literature. Based on diagrammatology, these domains appear as accessible for a diagrammatological approach which leaves the traditional relativism and culturalism of semiotics behind and hence constitutes a realist semiotics.
So writes the esteemed Brown University professor Arnold Weinstein in this brilliant, radical exploration of Western literature. In the tradition of Harold Bloom and Jacques Barzun, Weinstein guides us through great works of art, to reveal how literature constitutes nothing less than a feast for the heart. Our encounter with literature and art can be a unique form of human connection, an entry into the storehouse of feeling.
Writing about works by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Munch, Proust, O’Neill, Burroughs, DeLillo, Tony Kushner, Toni Morrison, and others, Weinstein explores how writers and artists give us a vision of what human life is really all about. Reading is an affair of the heart as well as of the mind, deepening our sense of the fundamental forces and emotions that govern our lives, including fear, pain, illness, loss, depression, death, and love.
Provocative, beautifully written, essential, A Scream Goes Through the House traces the human cry that echoes in literature through the ages, demonstrating how intense feelings are heard and shared. With intellectual insight and emotional acumen, Weinstein reveals how the scream that resounds through the house of literature, history, the body, and the family shows us who we really are and joins us together in a vast and timeless community.
From the Hardcover edition.
Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner: the very names sound intimidating. Yet as Weinstein argues with wit and passion, the works of these authors, and of their contemporary heir Toni Morrison, are in fact shimmering mirrors of our own inner world and most intimate thoughts. Novels such as Remembrance of Things Past, Ulysses, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, and Beloved allow us to explore the inner worlds of human feeling and bring us face-to-face with our own deepest selves and desires. Weinstein decodes these great novels, and he shows how to read them to understand human beings–the way our minds and hearts actually work. This is what Weinstein means by “recovering your story.”
Weinstein illuminates the complex pleasures woven into these peerless narratives. Beneath the slow, sensual cadences of Proust he finds an edgy erotic tension as well as a remarkably crisp depiction of the timeless world inside the self. Joyce’s Ulysses, in Weinstein’s brilliantly original reading, is a protean linguistic experiment that forces us to view both our bodies and our minds in a radically new–and hilariously funny–light. His analysis of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse circles back again and again on Woolf’s depiction of the importance of relationships in knowing the self. Faulkner, argues Weinstein, is at once our greatest tragedian and our darkest comedian, a novelist who captures both the agony and absurdity of consciousness in a time of social and moral disintegration. Finally, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Weinstein explores the legacy of modernism in a contemporary novel, as Morrison brings the body into the literary picture, confronting how the body affects not only our fundamental concept of self, but also consciousness itself.
In this magnificent work of literary appreciation and exploration, Weinstein makes the astonishing discovery of the self as a part of the joy of reading great modernist fiction, even as he makes these powerful works understandable, accessible, indeed imperative for all adventurous readers.
From the Hardcover edition.
Written in response to the sudden death of one of his students, who died tragically in an automobile accident on her way to Salwak’s office to talk over her career plans, Teaching Life is an effort to impart lessons to the next generation of teachers: “It was the suddenness of her death, I think, along with the utter loss of so much potential, which struck me forcibly, and I found myself wondering if anything I had said in class had made a difference in her too-short life or, for that matter, in the lives of any of my students.”
By turns analytical, reflective, and exhortatory, Teaching Life unselfconsciously captures the fascination, enlightenment, and sheer joy that literary studies can offer professors and students. It also implicitly speaks to society's prevailing—and disturbing—prejudice against the profession.
How do gorillas illuminate the works of Shakespeare?
What do bloodsucking bats have to do with John Steinbeck?
MADAME BOVARY’S OVARIES
A Darwinian Look at Literature
According to evolutionary psychologist David Barash and his daughter Nanelle, the answers lie in the most important word in biology: evolution. Just like every animal from mites to monkeys, our day-to-day behavior has been shaped by millions of years of natural selection. So it should be no surprise to learn that the natural forces that drive animals in general and Homo sapiens in particular are clearly visible in the creatures of literature, from Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones all the way to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones. Seen through the lens of evolutionary biology, the witty repartee of Jane Austen’s courting couples, Othello’s tragic rage, the griping of Holden Caulfield, and the scandalous indiscretions of Madame Bovary herself all make a fresh and exciting kind of sense.
The ways we fall in—and out—of love, stand by our friends, compete against our enemies, and squabble with our families have their roots in biological imperatives we share not only with other primates but with an amazing array of other creatures. The result is a new way to read, a novel approach to novels (and plays) that reveals how human nature underlies literature, from the great to the not-so-great.
Using the cutting-edge ideas of contemporary Darwinism, the authors show how the heroes and heroines of our favorite stories have been molded as much by evolution as by the genius of their creators, revealing a gallery of characters from Agamemnon to Alexander Portnoy, who have more in common with birds, fish, and other mammals than we could ever have imagined.
As engaging and informative as a good story, Madame Bovary’s Ovaries is both an accessible introduction to a fascinating area of science and a provocatively sideways look at our cherished literary heritage. Most of all, it shows in a delightfully enteraining way how science and literature shed light on each other.
From the Hardcover edition.