Thinking is much broader than what our science-obsessed, utilitarian culture often takes it to be. More than mere problem solving or the methodical comprehension of our personal and natural circumstances, thinking may take the form of a poem, a painting, a sculpture, a museum exhibition, or a documentary film. Exploring a variety of works by contemporary artists and writers who exemplify poetic thinking, this book draws our attention to one of the crucial affordances of this form of creative human insight and wisdom: its capacity to help protect and cultivate human freedom. All the contemporary works of art and literature that Poetic Thinking Today examines touch on our recent experiences with tyranny in culture and politics. They express the uninhibited thoughts and ideas of their creators even as they foster poetic thinking in us. In an era characterized by the global reemergence of authoritarian tendencies, Amir Eshel writes with the future of the humanities in mind. He urges the acknowledgment and cultivation of poetic thinking as a crucial component of our intellectual pursuits in general and of our educational systems more specifically.
About the author
Amir Eshel is Edward Clark Crossett Professor of Humanistic Studies at Stanford University.
"In this beautifully woven book, Eshel demonstrates what twenty-first-century 'thinking without a banister' can be: a life-affirming chance to open up the world poetically and ethically to new and transformative possibilities."
—Todd Samuel Presner, University of California, Los Angeles
"Poetic Thinking Today should be required reading for defenders of the humanities in our current political moment. Eshel's assiduous research, sensitive readings, and light touch of self-reflection make for a moving, inspiring essay: a testament to the enduring relevance of thinking as freedom, of art as resistance."
—Lital Levy, Princeton University
"In this beautiful, brilliant, and moving study, Eshel calls attention to poetic thinking as indispensable to understanding the human condition and especially to the challenge of defining freedom without limitations. Itself an enactment of embodied and empowered thinking, reading, and observing, his book offers a guide to a meaningful and responsible life."
—Ulrich Baer, New York University
"This exciting work asks important questions and defends the significance of the humanities. One of Eshel's inspirations is Arendt's ideal of 'thinking without banisters.' He has the intellectual daring to follow her example. Highly recommended."
—B. Almon, CHOICE
"Even if knowledge is power, the capacity to judge cannot be entirely subsumed by power but offers a way out of our current dilemmas. It shares this openness with art....Poetic Thinking alerts us to the relevance of our capacity to judge for both art and morality. [Eshel] has written a practical guide to recall and activate our capacity for judgment—and exactly in this heartfelt invitation for us to use our capacity to judge rests its explosive power."
—Volkmar Mühleis, Deutschlandfunk