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Literature, Culture, and Tolerance

Edited By Andrew R. Murphy, Charles Russel, Jaroslaw Pluciennik and Irena Hübner

Questions of tolerance are as old as human society. In acknowledgment of the crucial importance of tolerance and intolerance in contemporary life, a conference was convened in 2007. The 16 papers included in this volume all have their origins in that conference, which brought together a wide array of over 100 academics from fifteen nations, all interested in furthering discussion on tolerance. The goal of this book is to stimulate further historical and contemporary critical reflection on the foundational philosophical, religious, and cultural value and problematic future of tolerance. The title – Literature, Culture, and Tolerance – emphasizes the interconnections between the social and the artistic, between the political and the literary, in thinking through the phenomena of tolerance and intolerance in the modern world.

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Part I: Humanism and the Values of Tolerance 15

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Part I Humanism and the Values of Tolerance Introduction to Part I It is a challenging task for an individual to systematize knowledge about her– or himself. There are so many problems that arise, especially from the first–person perspective, and there are so many stories to tell. Many individuals attempt to classify knowledge about themselves by locating an Archimedean point that al- lows them to judge the world unequivocally and with black–and–white clarity. However, the discovery of vagueness, ambiguity, variety, diversity, and degrees of doubt, as well as the impossibility of decisive self–categorization, is one of the most elementary discoveries of modernity (despite the fact that some pre- figurations can be found in ancient times). In a way, then, modernity emphasizes the discovery of a dialogue within each individual. The dialogue between real subjectivities met in the world might be better and more subtle if we behaved towards ourselves as towards an alien, and if we treat aliens as ourselves. In other words, modernity spurs awareness of the fundamental uncertainty of our own being and encourages humility about the limits of our knowledge about both ourselves and others. This is particularly evident in times of seeming apocalyptic dichotomies and black–and–white culture wars. Modern literature is one manifestation of this self–reflexive modernity which inscribes itself in many strategies, discourses and spaces. Thus, modern literature can enable us to avoid exaltation and dogmatism as well as to combat the hegemony of opposing ambi- tious and...

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