Over the course of last year, I set aside a number of books that I wanted to read because I knew that they would make significant contributions to public conversations, but I knew that they would require some time and effort to read carefully and well.
I’m hoping to read a number of these 10 books over the coming year…
By ERB Editor, C. Christopher Smith
(In alphabetical order by author’s last name…)
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Hardback: Harvard UP
For centuries, philosophers have been divided on the nature of language. Those in the rational empiricist tradition―Hobbes, Locke, Condillac, and their heirs―assert that language is a tool that human beings developed to encode and communicate information. In The Language Animal, Taylor explains that this view neglects the crucial role language plays in shaping the very thought it purports to express. Language does not merely describe; it constitutes meaning and fundamentally shapes human experience. The human linguistic capacity is not something we innately possess. We first learn language from others, and, inducted into the shared practice of speech, our individual selves emerge out of the conversation.
Hardback: Columbia UP
The literature of Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison, Ana Castillo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie teaches a risky, self-giving way of reading (and being) that brings home the dangers and the possibilities of suffering as an ethical good. Working the thought of feminist theologians and philosophers into an analysis of these women’s writings, Cynthia R. Wallace crafts a literary ethics attentive to the paradoxes of critique and re-vision, universality and particularity, and reads in suffering a redemptive or redeemable reality.
Wallace’s approach recognizes the generative interplay between ethical form and content in literature, which helps isolate more distinctly the gendered and religious echoes of suffering and sacrifice in Western culture. By refracting these resonances through the work of feminists and theologians of color, her book also shows the value of broad-ranging ethical explorations into literature, with their power to redefine theories of reading and the nature of our responsibility to art and each other.
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