In The Trouble with Literature (Oxford, 2020), Victoria Kahn (UC Berkeley Comparative Literature and English) argues that the literature of the English Reformation marks a turning point in Western thinking about literature and literariness. But instead of arguing that the Reformation fostered English literature, as scholars have often done, Kahn claims that literature helped undo the Reformation.
Tracing the roots of the modern understanding of literature as offering aesthetic, non-cognitive pleasure, Kahn probes the implications that such a notion has for our understanding of both poetry and belief. The book is based on the Clarendon Lectures in English Literature, which Kahn delivered at Oxford in 2017.
She is joined by Niklaus Largier (UCB German and Comparative Literature). After a brief discussion, they respond to questions from the audience.
Kahn’s most recent essay for Representations is Art, Judaism, and the Critique of Fascism in the Work of Ernst Cassirer.
Largier is a long-time member of the Representations editorial board and is the co-editor of the journal’s upcoming special issue “Practices of Devotion” (coming in February).