Review: What is literature, by Arthur Gibson [Book Review]

Abstract

Gibson’s exploration of literature in this ambitious work positions itself as a response to Jean-Paul Sartre’s series of essays published as What is Literature? in 1947. Gibson claims that the nature of literature is not, as Sartre asserts, ‘finite and particular’ but rather a ‘series of infinite qualities’. He explains that literature opens up meaning continually and in surprising ways. The concept of surprise is fundamental to Gibson’s contention that literature is ‘counter-intuitive’. Thus the main thesis of the book is contained in Gibson’s assertion that ‘great literature directs attention to new ways of seeing’. This statement could be just as usefully applied to Gibson’s own book. In it he proposes a myriad of positions from which to consider the infinite and surprising nature of literature.

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