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Worldly Acts and Sentient Things
Author: Robert Chodat

ISBN: 9780801446788
Format: Hardcover
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: 16 April 2008
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.91

Ants, ghosts, cultures, thunderstorms, stock markets, robots, computers: this is just a partial list of the sentient things that have filled American literature over the last century. From modernism forward, writers have given life and voice to both the human and the nonhuman, and in the process addressed the motives, behaviors, and historical pressures that define lives-or things-both everyday and extraordinary.

In Worldly Acts and Sentient Things, Robert Chodat exposes a major shortcoming in recent accounts of twentieth-century discourse. What is often seen as the "death" of agency is better described as the displacement of agency onto new and varied entities. Writers as diverse as Gertrude Stein, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, and Don DeLillo are preoccupied with a cluster of related questions. Which entities are capable of believing something, saying something, desiring, hoping, hating, or doing? Which things, in turn, do we treat as worthy of our care, respect, and worship?

Drawing on a philosophical tradition exemplified by Ludwig Wittgenstein and Wilfrid Sellars, Chodat shows that the ...

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