1st Edition

Of Literature and Knowledge
Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution and Game Theory

ISBN 9780415420600
Published December 4, 2006 by Routledge
208 Pages

USD $46.95

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Book Description

"Of Literature and Knowledge looks ... like an important advance in this new and very important subject... literature is about to become even more interesting." – Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University.

Framed by the theory of evolution, this colourful and engaging volume presents a new understanding of the mechanisms by which we transfer information from narrative make-believe to real life. Ranging across game theory and philosophy of science, as well as poetics and aesthetics, Peter Swirski explains how literary fictions perform as a systematic tool of enquiry, driven by thought experiments. Crucially, he argues for a continuum between the cognitive tools employed by scientists, philosophers and scholars or writers of fiction.

The result is a provocative study of our talent and propensity for creating imaginary worlds, different from the world we know yet invaluable to our understanding of it. Of Literature and Knowledge is a noteworthy challenge to contemporary critical theory, arguing that by bridging the gap between literature and science we might not only reinvigorate literary studies but, above all, further our understanding of literature.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Literature and Knowledge  2. Literature and Modelling  3. Literature and Evolution  4. Literature and Thought Experiments  5. Literature and Game Theory  Conclusion.  Works Cited and Consulted

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Peter Swirski is the Head of American Studies at the University of Hong Kong. His key research areas are twentieth-century American literature and culture, including popular fiction and film; critical theory, especially aesthetics, genre theory, game theory, and epistemology; and the work of science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem.


'... an important advance in this new and very important subject... literature is about to become even more interesting.' - Edward O. Wilson

'...A complex and usefully provocative contribution to the field. Laudably ambitious and readable, it deserves to stimulate debate among those of us trying to work out the place of literary studies in a predominantly scientific age.' - Jon Adams, London School of Economics, BSLA Reviews

'Swirski's greatest asset is his clear yet colorful style of writing. Even when discussing difficult theoretical subjects, he manages to write both lucidly and engagingly, often using humor to make his points more understandable and more memorable. It is hard not to be affected by his plain enthusiasm for his subject. In short, Swirski's prose is a pleasure to read... undoubtedly useful four anyone interested in a more interdisciplinary perspective on literature... a valuable and interesting contribution to literary scholarship" - Tero Eljas Vanhanen, University of Helsinki, SubStance 2013