There is no shortage of testimony to literature's puzzling, unsettling, intoxicating, affecting, delighting powers. Nor has there been a shortage of attempts to define literature as a concept, a body of texts or a cultural practice. However, no definition has been able to pin down the peculiarity of literature or to chart our experience of the literary. In this volume, Derek Attridge ask us to confront with him the resistance to definition in order to explore afresh the singularity of literature.
In seeking new purchase on the elusive "literary", the author finds himself reflecting upon the history of Western art as a practice and as an institution. At its heart he finds a closely linked trinity of crucial issues: innovation or invention, the uniqueness or singularity of the artwork and, underlying these, the concept of otherness or alterity. Calling for a type of reading that does justice to these aspects of the literary work, he explores literature as event or performance and brilliantly retheorizes its place in the realm of the ethical. The author acknowledges the impossibility of definition and rather offers us an account of his particular "living-through" of the literary in the terms above and invites us to share with him the insights it might offer. The insights in this case are invaluable, as we are offered not only an original framework within which to consider texts, but a clear case for the ethical value of the literary institution to a culture.
Never losing sight of the pleasures and potency of our experience of literature, The Singularity of Literature is itself a delight to read. Returning to arguments begun in his influential volume PeculiarLanguage , Derek Attridge here energizes discussion of the literary by forever shifting the terms of debate and offering new perspectives on questions that haunt every reader.