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Book Review: How Literature Questions Dogmas of Modernity

Book Review: How Literature Questions Dogmas of Modernity


REVIEW ESSAY HOW LITERATURE QUESTIONS DOGMAS OF MODERNITY A Review of Johann P. Arnason and David Roberts, Elias Canetti's Counter-Image of Society. Crowds, Power, Transformation (Rochester: Camden House, 2004) Michael Mack Elias Canetti's work, though largely ignored and neglected, has a special contemporary relevance. In an age of growing academic specializa- tion his characterization as poet might strike a chord with those who realize that the talk about interdisciplinary research veils the sad reality of an increas- ing compartmentalization of scientific knowledge, scholarly discussion and social analysis. Canetti called himself a poet, in order to emphasize the diverse range of his intellectual activities. To my knowledge he did not actually write poetry. The term Dichter (poet), however, refers to the co- existence of disparate elements within a body of work that embraces a diver- sity of themes, genres and often contradictory standpoints. As a poet, Canetti set out to represent diversity and disparity. He did so in close collaboration with his intellectual friend Franz Baermann Steiner. The latter actually wrote poetry and defined the poet as 'the guardian of the myths of all peoples'. Whereas history, politics and religion in a variety of ways erect barriers between different
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