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Description - Poetic Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum

In this text the author explores how literature can contribute to a more just society, and how current models of human behaviour draw too exclusively on economic self interest, with the result that in areas of public discourse - in policy-making, legislation, and judicial reasoning - we too often fail to see each other as human. Literature however, can bring home to us the value of other people whose lives are distant from our own. This book aims to show how the literary imagination is an essential part of public discourse and rational argument, and how private reading extends into the public sphere.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780807041093
ISBN-10: 0807041092
Format: Paperback
(215mm x 140mm x 11mm)
Pages: 128
Imprint: Beacon Press
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publish Date: 7-May-1997
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Poetic Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum

US Kirkus Review » Those staid souls who always wondered what novels were good for now get to hear it from Nussbaum (Ethics/Univ. of Chicago; The Therapy of Desire, 1994, etc.), who instructs us in the use of imaginative empathy as one of the necessary tools for living the just life. Nussbaum argues elegantly that the novel, by engaging our sympathy in the contemplation of lives different from ours, expands our imaginative capabilities so we may better make those judgments that public life demands of us. Her sources are carefully chosen: Aristotle, the Stoics, Adam Smith, et al., are called into service appropriately and sparingly. On the down side, the literary examples - Dickens's Hard Times, Richard Wright's Native Son, and E.M. Forster's Maurice - are perhaps too predictable a trio; Nussbaum also makes reference to Whitman, however, which brings some fresh air into the book. Poetic Justice reads like the series of law school lectures it was originally: there is much enumeration of points to be proved before proving them. It alternates between academic mouthfuls and the thoughtful phrase juste (we read that love is "not, in the relevant sense, blind: it perceives its object as endowed with a special wonder and importance"). For whatever reason (perhaps Nussbaum doesn't have the feeling for literature that she does for the law), the book only gets truly interesting with the citation of legal cases, especially the dreadful Mary Jane Carr v. Allison Gas Turbine Division, General Motors Corporation (1994), which begs the question of why the court would rule "mighty" GM powerless to stop mass sexual harassment of a single female worker. Poetic Justice will be most appreciated by philosophers, lawyers, and economists; creative types may be frustrated by the face-value uses the literary passages are put to. Nussbaum's thesis, however, deserves to be shouted from the rooftops - like Whitman's Song of Myself. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Martha C. Nussbaum

Martha C. Nussbaum, author of The Fragility of Goodness, Love's Knowledge, and The Therapy of Desire, is professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago.

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