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Joshua Landy
Stanford University
  1.  57
    Don't Feed the Liars! On Fraudulent Memoirs, and Why They're Bad.Joshua Landy - 2022 - Philosophy and Literature 46 (1):137-161.
    Some infamous memoirs have turned out to be chock-full of fibs. Should we care? Why not say—as many have—that all autobiography is fiction, that accurate memory is impossible, that we start lying as soon as we start narrating, and that it doesn’t matter anyway, since made-up stories are just as good as true ones? Because, well, every part of that is misleading. First, we don’t misremember absolutely everything; second, we have other sources to draw on; third, story form affects only (...)
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  2. A Nation of Madame Bovarys : On the Possibility and Desirability of Moral Improvement Through Fiction.Joshua Landy - 2008 - In Garry Hagberg (ed.), Art and Ethical Criticism. Blackwell. pp. 63--94.
    "A Nation of Madame Bovarys" rebuts the notion that literature improves its readers morally, whether: (1) by imparting instruction, (2) by eliciting empathy for nonparochial groups, or (3) by forcibly fine-tuning our capacity to navigate difficult ethical waters. Taking Geoffrey Chaucer’s ’Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ as its test case, it argues that the positions taken by Nussbaum, Booth, Rorty, et al. -- also including the "imaginative resistance" position -- are vastly overblown; that empathy is unreliable as a guide to moral behavior; (...)
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  3.  55
    Lyric Self-Fashioning: Sonnet 35 as Formal Model.Joshua Landy - 2021 - Philosophy and Literature 45 (1):224-248.
    Each of us is not just a set of actions, experiences, and plans but also a set of traits, capacities, and attitudes; we are as much our character as our life. And while story form can help unify a messy life, when it comes to a messy character, we may need something like the form of a poem. Could we model our self-conception, then, on a work like Sonnet 35? In finding deep-going unity—and even bittersweet beauty—beneath surface-level ambivalence, Sonnet 35 (...)
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  4. Conditional Goods and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: How Literature (as a Whole) Could Matter Again.Joshua Landy - 2013 - Substance 42 (2):48-60.
    This essay argues that literature is neither an intrinsic good (like oxygen) nor a constructed good (like a teddy-bear) but instead a conditional good, like a blueprint. It has immense potential value, but that potential can be actualized only if readers do a certain kind of work; and readers are likely to do that work only if, as a culture, we retain an understanding of what novels and poems both need from us and can give us. This means we need (...)
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  5.  87
    Passion, Counter-Passion, Catharsis : Beckett and Flaubert on Feeling Nothing.Joshua Landy - 2010 - In Garry Hagberg & Walter Jost (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature. Wiley-Blackwell.
    This chapter presents Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy as modern fictions with ancient-skeptical ambitions. Whether in the affective domain (Flaubert) or in the cognitive (Beckett), the aim is to help the reader achieve a position of studied neutrality—ataraxia, époché—thanks not to an a priori decision but to the mutual cancellation of opposing tendencies. Understanding Flaubert and Beckett in this way allows us, first, to enrich our sense of what “catharsis” may involve; second, to see why the apparently (...)
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  6.  80
    The Most Overrated Article of All Time?Joshua Landy - 2017 - Philosophy and Literature 41 (2):465-470.
    Roland Barthes' famous essay "The Death of the Author" packs an astonishing number of logical howlers into its blessedly few pages. How did it become so firmly entrenched in the canon of literary theory?
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  7. Still Life in a Narrative Age: Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation.Joshua Landy - 2011 - Critical Inquiry 37 (3):497-514.
    We are living in an age that is narratively obsessed: both in the academy and in popular culture, temporally articulated phenomena currently exert a vice-like grip over the collective imagination. Under such conditions, how may non-narrative sources of aesthetic power be made available once again to human observers? Charlie Kaufman’s response, in Adaptation, takes the form not of statements but of actions, of “philosophical therapy” for our insatiable narrative hunger. It leaves us, in the end, with two phenomena that have (...)
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  8.  54
    The Devil, the Master-Criminal, and the Re-Enchantment of the World (On The Usual Suspects).Joshua Landy - 2012 - Philosophy and Literature 36 (1):37-57.
    What is so appealing about the figure of the master criminal? The answer lies in the kind of solution he provides to the problem of suffering. Rather than just accounting for affliction—as, for example, does Leibniz’s theodicy—such a figure enchants it, transforming mundane objects into actual or potential clues, everyday incidents into moves in a cosmic conflict, random misery into a purposeful pattern. The master criminal (the shadowy villain of _The Usual Suspects_, say) thus constitutes a secular replacement for the (...)
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  9.  38
    Deceit, Desire, and the Literature Professor: Why Girardians Exist.Joshua Landy - 2012 - Republics of Letters 1 (3):np.
    I read René Girard so you don't have to.
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  10.  69
    Formative Fictions: Imaginative Literature and the Training of the Capacities.Joshua Landy - 2012 - Poetics Today 2 (33):167-214.
    While it is often assumed that fictions must be informative or morally improving in order to be of any real benefit to us, certain texts defy this assumption by functioning as training grounds for the capacities: in engaging with them, we stand to become not more knowledgeable or more virtuous but more skilled, whether at rational thinking, at maintaining necessary illusions, at achieving tranquility of mind, or even at religious faith. Instead of offering us propositional knowledge, these texts yield know-how; (...)
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  11.  44
    Art, Intention, and Everyday Psychology.Joshua Landy - 2020 - Nonsite 1 (32).
    Responding to a set of essays by Walter Benn Michaels, this paper argues that we can solve some interesting puzzles about intention in photography without the need for any fancy Anscombian footwork. Three distinctions are enough to do the job. First, with Alexander Nehamas, we should separate the empirical photographer from the postulated artist. Next we should mark off generic intentions (such as the intention to make a work of art) from specific intentions (such as the intention to critique capitalism). (...)
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  12.  35
    The Abyss of Freedom: Love and Legitimacy in Constant’s Adolphe.Joshua Landy - 2009 - Nineteenth Century French Studies 3 (37):193-213.
    Despite its superficial similarities with Rousseau's _Confessions_, Constant's _Adolphe_ functions in fact as a devastating critique from within of the entire autobiographical project. Proceeding from the threefold assumption that the soul is irremediably divided, self-opaque, and untranslatable into language, it interrogates the very feasibility of autobiography, implicitly presenting its protagonist's maxims (which only appear to be the fruits of experience altruistically shared) and his claim never to have loved (which only appears to be brutally honest, but is a curious act (...)
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  13.  35
    In Praise of Depth: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Hidden.Joshua Landy - 2020 - New Literary History 1 (51):145-76.
    [Proofs; please cite published version] In recent years, some prominent scholars have been making a surprising claim: examining literary texts for hidden depths is overblown, misguided, or indeed downright dangerous. Such examination, they’ve warned us, may lead to the loss of world Heidegger warned of (Gumbrecht), to the world-denying metaphysics Nietzsche warned of (Nehamas), or to the suspicious form of hermeneutics Ricoeur warned of (Best, Marcus, Moi). This paper seeks to suggest that, though the concerns are understandable, there’s ultimately nothing (...)
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  14.  30
    To Thine Own Selves Be True-Ish: Shakespeare’s Hamlet as Formal Model.Joshua Landy - 2018 - In Tzachi Zamir (ed.), Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Philosophical Perspectives. New York, NY, USA: pp. 154-87.
    This chapter presents the core challenge before Hamlet as that of achieving authenticity in the face of inner multiplicity. Authenticity—which this chapter will take to mean (1) acting on the (2) knowledge of (3) what one truly is, beneath one’s various masks and social roles—becomes a particularly pressing need under conditions of (early) modernity, when traditional forms of action-guidance are at least halfway off the table. But authenticity is highly problematic when the self that is discovered turns out to be (...)
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  15.  26
    Mental Calisthenics and Self-Reflexive Fiction.Joshua Landy - 2015 - In The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Approaches to Literature. New York, NY, USA: pp. 559-80.
    Drawing on what we know about priming effects, informational encapsulation, lucid dreaming, imaginative practice, and the “mirror box” illusion, this article argues that self-reflexive fictions may enhance our capacity for simultaneous belief and disbelief, a capacity of surprising importance for human flourishing.
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  16.  17
    Corruption by Literature.Joshua Landy - 2010 - Republics of Letters: A Journal for the Study of Knowledge, Politics, and the Arts 2 (1).
    This essay argues not just that literature can corrupt its readers—if literature can improve, it can also corrupt—but that some of that is our fault: by telling people to extract moral lessons from fictions, we’ve set them up to be led astray by writers like Ayn Rand. A global attitude of message-mining sets readers up to be misled, confused, or complacent (because they “gave at the office”), as well as to reject some excellent books. Ironically, the best way to make (...)
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