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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 III: Literature and the Forms of Tolerance 103

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Part III Literature and the Forms of Tolerance Introduction to Part III In The Dancing Mind Toni Morrison invokes an ideal state of consciousness that is central to the literary experience, a state that speaks as well to the ideals of tolerance. There is a certain kind of peace that is not merely the absence of war. It is larger than that. The peace I am thinking of is not at the mercy of history’s rule, nor is it a passive surrender to the status quo. The peace I am thinking of is the dance of an open mind when it engages another equally open one — an activity that occurs most naturally, most often in the reading/writing world we live in.1 For Morrison, to write, and to read, is to engage two minds in a dance in which each is open to the other, for its own and the other’s benefit. For the reader, in particular, the experience is not only that of encountering or dancing with a separate mind; it implies the observation and recognition of one’s own mind, welcoming its participation in that dance. Indeed, there is something about the experience of literature that brings us, as readers and writers, constantly to the dynamics of tolerance: the chal- lenges of (the necessity of) recognizing oneself and the presence of others. The act of reading always presents us with the confrontation of two distinct minds, and the response of the reader to the writer always contains multiple challenges and...

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