The Philosophical Novel
Annotation:2009. Martin, a philosophy professor specializing in 19th- and 20th-century continental philosophy and business ethics, wrote his dissertation on deception. “How to Sell” contains philosophy as well--it is the story of a young man’s education in two of the oldest human passions, love and money. Through a dark, sharp lens, Martin captures the luxury business in all its exquisite vulgarity and outrageous fraud, finding in the diamond-and-watch trade a metaphor for the American soul at work.
Annotation:1906. (German original title: Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß). Ostensibly a Bildungsroman, a story of a young disoriented man searching for moral values in society and their meaning for him.
Annotation:1930–42. (German: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften) The novel is a "story of ideas", which takes place in the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy's last days, and the plot often veers into allegorical dissections of a wide range of human themes and feelings. It has a particular concern with the values of truth and opinion and how society organises ideas, though no one theme dominates.
Annotation:1935. Set largely in the fictional town of Great Falls, Connecticut; Boston; and England, in and around Oxford. It relates the life of Oliver Alden, the descendant of an old Boston family. Santayana wrote of the novel that "it gives the emotions of my experiences, and not my thoughts or experiences themselves."
Annotation:1938. (French: La Nausée) Sartre's first novel, it concerns a dejected historian, who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom, evoking in the protagonist a sense of nausea.
Annotation:Book 1 of The Roads to Freedom (Les chemins de la liberté), a series of novels by Jean-Paul Sartre written largely in response to the events of World War II and the Nazi occupation of France, and express certain significant shifts in Sartre's philosophical position towards 'engagement' (commitment) in both life and literature. The novel, set in the bohemian Paris of the late 1930s, focuses on three days in the life of a philosophy teacher named Mathieu who is seeking money to pay for an abortion for his mistress, Marcelle.
Annotation:Book 2 of The Roads to Freedom, The Reprieve concerns life in France during the eight days before the signing of the Munich Agreement and the subsequent takeover of Czechoslovakia in September 1938.
Annotation:Book 3 of The Roads to Freedom, Troubled Sleep depicts the feelings of a group of Frenchmen whose pre-war apathy gives way to a consciousness of the dignity of individual resistance - to the German occupation and to fate in general - and solidarity with people similarly oppressed.
Annotation:1963. (Japanese: 午後の曳航, meaning The Afternoon Towing).The story of Ryuji, a sailor with vague notions of a special honor awaiting him at sea. He meets a woman called Fusako with whom he falls deeply in love, and he ultimately decides to marry her. Fusako's 13-year-old son, Noboru, is in a band of savage boys who believe in "objectivity", rejecting the adult world as illusory, hypocritical and sentimental.
Annotation:1966. Set in a small Ohio town in the 1890s, it chronicles - through the voices of various participants and observers - the confrontation between Brackett Omensetter, a man of preternatural goodness, and the Reverend Jethro Furber, a preacher crazed by violent thoughts.
Annotation:1987. Wallace's first novel, in which a recurring concept is psychology as it relates to words and language, and many of the theories discussed involve the ideas and theories of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Annotation:1988. Mainly a series of statements made in the first person; the protagonist of Wittgenstein's Mistress is a woman who believes herself to be the last human on earth. Though her statements shift quickly from topic to topic, the topics are often recurrent, and often reference Western cultural icons, ranging from Zeno to Beethoven to Willem de Kooning. Readers familiar with Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus will recognize striking stylistic similarities to that work.
Annotation:1996. This lengthy and complex work takes place in a semi-parodic future version of North America, and touches on tennis, substance addiction and recovery programs, depression, child abuse, family relationships, advertising and popular entertainment, film theory, and Quebec separatism, among other topics.
Annotation:Can a novelist write philosophically? And other questions.
Annotation:On the philosophical infrastructure of David Foster Wallace's writings.
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Can a novelist write philosophically? Writing in the New York Times, essayist and critic James Ryerson mused, "Plato was openly hostile to art, fearful of its ability to produce emotionally beguiling falsehoods that would disrupt the quest for what is real and true. Plato’s view was extreme (he proposed banning dramatists from his model state), but he wasn’t crazy to suggest that the two enterprises have incompatible agendas.” While the rational, exacting explorations that we associate with philosophers might, indeed, seem wholly different animals than the meandering accruals of experience which so often characterizes the novel, the modern era, unlike Plato’s, has been defined by the cross-pollination of styles, the political becoming personal, and experiments of form which engage the supreme (and mundane) questions of life. Here is a modest list of some of the writers particularly suited to that task.