Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Damon on the Island (with liberal arts)

While I was in Hobart for the Tasmanian Writers Festival (more on this soonish), I picked up a copy of the schmick new Island magazine, edited by Rachel Edwards and Matt Lamb.

Alongside a smorgasbord of new writing --  including an interview with novelist Charlotte Wood, a sharp essay on translation by Daniel Hahn, and some meticulous poems by Mary Jo Bang -- is a review of Philosophy in the Garden, by Helen Hayward.

In a double review, Hayward looks at my book alongside Martha Nussbaum's Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Nussbaum's book is a defence of the liberal arts, and my book is examined in light of this topic. Hayward writes:
[W]ith his vivid, critical, and, sometimes loving, attention to detail, he brings to new life writers and philosophers that anyone with a liberal arts education thought they already knew....
Having not read Nussbaum's book, I can't comment on the specifics. But Hayward is certainly right to argue that Philosophy in the Garden is an attempt to embody certain intellectual virtues, including imaginative sympathy: putting oneself in another's shoes. The aim isn't simply to repeat the ideas of Jane Austen or Jean-Paul Sartre, but to understand the lives in which these ideas thrived.

Even if I haven't always succeeded, it's very gratifying to have this ambition recognised.

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