From the Jacket
Culture and Consciousness argues that the vast interdisciplinary boom in consciousness research has enormous implications for literary and cultural studies, and that the potential benefits of this research in the twenty-first century are momentous. Its objective is to show how consciousness studies can help us reassess our approach to key issues and the Fundamental assumptions of contemporary theory and criticism. In eight chapters, the first three theoretical and the others largely applied, major points of contention in the humanities are explored through a perspective that accommodates the full range of mind and consciousness. Haney demonstrates that the debates in theory surrounding the questions of identity, truth, and language, which have so far eluded the mind or reason, cannot be resolved without recourse to the structure of consciousness and intersubjectivity-an interaction mediated by language and resulting in mutual agreement. Chapters four to eight apply the notion of intersubjectivity to the reading of specific works.
A key implication of this book is that questions in literary and cultural theory concerning binaries such as presence and absence, pattern and randomness, the given and the made, the individual and the collective will continue to elude the mind as a reservoir of rational thought. We can only begin to understand these issues by taking into consideration the difference between mind and consciousness. The free play of postmodern culture with its conceptual indeterminacy and lack of depth can help to free awareness from the phenomenal objects of the mind by allowing attention to slip into the spaces between these objects. This slippage is promoted by intersubjectivity, a process of relating to the other," whether the other is a human being, a creative inspiration, or a work of art. Hancy contends that at a certain level the duality of self and other is overcome is an experience of unity. To support this claim, the first part of the book suggests how all knowledge domains-sensory, mental, and contemplative-can be seen as distinct but integrated. No one sphere can rightfully dominate the others, as in the materialist or poststructuralist domination of the subject. Because consciousness cannot be explained by sensory or mental empiricism, no theory like poststructuralism or postmodernism can effectively call into question something still beyond third-person, consensual understanding. What integrates these domains is not language or reason but consciousness, understood as the all-pervasive ground of knowledge. Access to this ground is enhanced by aesthetic experience and by certain postmodern cultural acts, as the second part of the book demonstrates.
William S. Haney II, a University of California, Davis, Ph. D., is professor of English and has taught at the University of Maryland, the Johannes Gutenberg University is Mainz, Germany, and Eastern Mediteranean University, North Cyprus. His books and edited collections focus on contemporary British and American literature and culture, often from a consciousness studies perspective. They include Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-first Century (BUP), co-edited with Peter Malekin. He is currently working on two book projects: Sacred Theater (co-authored), and Cybercultures, Cyborgs, and Consciousness.
Culture and Consciousness Argues That the Vast Interdisciplinary boom in consciousness research has enormous implications for literary and cultural studies, and that the potential benefits of this research in the twenty-first century are momentous and "will be ignored at our great peril" - to repeat Howard Mancing's words regarding cognitive science (1999,167). My objective in this book is to show how consciousness studies can help us reassess our approach to key issues and the fundamental assumptions of contemporary theory and criticism. I indicate how major points of contention in the humanities can be elucidated through a perspective that accommodates the full range of mind and consciousness. Debates in recent theory surrounding the two basic questions about identity and truth-whether they are given or made, individual or social-cannot be resolved solely on the basis of the mind or reason, which is a fragmentary and partial content of consciousness.
My argument unfolds in eight chapters, the first three theoretical and the others largely applied. In the first three chapters I lay the foundations for a definition of intersubjectivity that includes yet goes beyond Habermas's idea of an interaction mediated by language and resulting in mutual understanding and agreement (1987, 294-326). In chapters 4 to 8 I apply the notion of intersubjectivity to the reading of specific works of literature. Chapter 1 traces the history of modern research into consciousness and indicates how the theory and praxis of consciousness in the East can provide a model or the cooperation scientists propose between phenomenology and cognitive science. It explains that the Western mind and body comprise the material building b locks of experience as distinct from consciousness (Purusha or Atman). Chapter 2 compares the views of the self formulated by modern literary theory and Shankara's Advaita (nondual) Vedanta, and suggests that the reconditioning of the mind and disburdening of the personality in postmodern culture can induce something akin to the empting of consciousness describe by Vedanta. This process can be seen operating in supermo-dernity as defined by Marc Auge and in cultural hybridity as defined by Homi Bhabha-both of which are forms of intersubjectivity. Supporting these observations, chapter 3 compares Indian literary theory and deconstruction, illustrating how both approaches point to the silent meaning of an aesthetic work. This meaning, which reception theorists describe in terms of ostranenie (Shklovsky), verfremdung (Brecht), and gaps (Iser), is attainable as the mind expands towards what Indian aesthetics describes as the transpersonal, transcultural state of witnessing awareness.
Chapter 4, which is pivotal in defining intersubjectivity as an unmediated subject-to-subject communication, should be read before the ensuing chapters. It argues that social drama and stage drama increasingly interpenetrate with the effect that an aesthetics of presence complements and even embraces our everyday experience within a intersubjective unity of differences. Chapter 5 examines how the plays of Beckett and Pinter, in dramatizing the relative, nonuniversal nature of the mind as conceptual content, have the performative effect of expanding the subject's awareness beyond conceptuality altogether. These plays give performers and audience a taste of intersubjective presence after discursive thought has run its course. In chapter 6 I explore how disturbing memories in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five can drive the protagonist and reader toward lashes of being-the pure awareness underlying the social construction of the self and the basis of interconnectedness. Shifting from an historical to a virtual context in chapter 7, I demonstrate how the postindustrial environment-as-electronic-medium in De Lillo's white Noise swings our awareness from the physical to the metaphysical, from temporal boundaries to the aestheticized reality of cyberspace. This move takes us from object awareness (mind) to a virtual intersubjectivity. Finally in chapter 8 I bring the above issues to bear in the analysis of the relation between intersubjectivity and the human-machine interface. I conclude that a true intersubjectivity involves the human attributes of volition and ethics, that these attributes are not explainable by any presently known physical laws, and that the posthuman "man-machine" as a material construct may not have access to the full range of intersubjectivity.
The freeplay of postmodern culture with its conceptual indeterminacy and lack of depth can help to free awareness from its objects by allowing attention to slip into the spaces between the mind's conceptual content. This slippage is promoted by intersubjectivity, a process of "relating to the other," whether the other is a human being, a creative inspiration, or a work of art. I suggest that at a certain level the duality of self and other is overcome in an experience of unity. To support this claim, the first part of the book indicates how all knowledge domains-sensory, mental, and contemplative-can be seen as distinct yet integrated. No one sphere can rightfully dominate the others, as in the attempted poststructuralist domination of the subject. That which integrates these domains ultimately is not language or reason but consciousness, the all-pervasive ground of knowledge. Access to this ground is enhanced by aesthetic experience and by certain postmodern cultural activities. Because consciousness cannot be explained by sensory or mental empiricism, no theory like poststructuralism can effectively call into question something still beyond our consensual, third-person understanding.
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