Re-constructing dialogue : literary sensibility and non-violent subjectivity : literary sensibility and non-violent subjectivity

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


With this project, I seek to advocate the relevance of literary scholarship to the problem of the use of sanctioned violence to solve conflicts. I propose that, unlike the empirical sensibility, what I will call the literary sensibility is, at heart, a non-violent means for creating and recreating understanding. When the literary sensibility is used to negotiate the unknown into the known, each subjective participant in the encounter is able to grant and maintain his or her own integrity as well as the integrity of all other subjective participants as subjects. I define my understanding of the literary sensibility by engaging the work of Jacques Derrida, who is himself concerned with the philosophy of literature and the literary. I show that because of limitations within his understanding of subjectivity, the deconstructive interpretive act is ultimately violent. Derrida maintains a formal impossibility that would allow a subject to recognize an Other as a subject, and without this possibility, a subject can only objectify the Other, an act of subjugation and violence in which the Other has no agency to define terms (or itself). Derrida, I think, understands the violence of objectification and subjugation, but because he maintains the impossibility of understanding the Other as a subject, Derrida can only resolve the problem by perpetually deferring what, for him, is inevitable violence. Therefore, Derrida's treatment of the literary is at odds with what the literary sensibility can truly accomplish. In A Room with a View, E.M. Forster demonstrates and represents what I consider to be the subjective moment influenced by the literary sensibility. By engaging this work, I argue that we can maintain a possibility for re-constructing a dialogic meaning making process that allows for the same qualities of deferral, multiplicity, simultaneity, and literariness that deconstruction affords and prioritizes while, at the same time, providing an invitation to non-violent practice.




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