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A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation

By: Randy Fertel

$32.95

Western civilization has always driven toward mastering the world through reason, will, craft, and scientific objectivity. Yet beneath this current swirls a riptide that suggests we can know more of the world through non-rational means – through spontaneity, intuition, and creativity.

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Western civilization has always driven toward mastering the world through reason, will, craft, and scientific objectivity. Yet beneath this current swirls a riptide that suggests we can know more of the world through non-rational means – through spontaneity, intuition, and creativity. In A Taste For Chaos, literary scholar Randy Fertel explores this undercurrent of spontaneity in literature and identifies a new metagenre called improvisations – texts that claim to have been written without effort or craft, like an idea that hits you in the shower. Whether the authors claim to have written them in a dream, instinctively, off the top of their head, or when drunk, they have done so, so they claim, without effort, and their work is the more valuable because of it. While self-styled spontaneous texts claim to be unlike anything we have ever seen before, they actually abound across genres and time, from the epic sung poetry of classical Greece to 21st century novels. A Taste for Chaos, presents a methodology for talking about spontaneity, and then applies that methodology to landmark texts. Fertel explores the complex nature of the spontaneous gesture; identifies the stylistic conventions, themes, and rhetorical features of improvisations; and explores the archetype of spontaneity throughout history from philosophy and psychology to chaos science, jazz, conceptual art, post-modernism, and finally Hermes – the god of crossing boundaries, of improvisation, who graces the book’s cover. Fertel then provides a fresh approach to major texts of the Western tradition by analyzing them through the lens of improvisation: Milton’s Paradise Lost, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Jung’s Red Book, Joyce’s Ulysses, Mann’s Dr. Faustus, and finally, McEwan’s Saturday. Woven throughout these improvisations, demonstrates Fertel, is the lesson that we can ultimately know more of the world by accepting the limits of reason, and opening up rationality to more of life.

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Publisher:Spring Journal, Inc.
Binding:Paperback
Volume(s):1
About the Author:Randy Fertel holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University, where he received a student-voted teaching award. He has taught English at Harvard, Tulane, LeMoyne College, and the New School for Social Research. He specializes in the literature of the Vietnam War and the literature of exile. Fertel has been featured in People, Bloomberg, and Esquire and has contributed to The New York Times, NPR, Smithsonian, Kenyon Review, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, Gastronomica, Creative Nonfiction, The Journal of Modern Literature, Modern Language Quarterly, Victorian Poetry, Spring Journal, Tikkun, WLA, New Orleans Review, and The Huffington Post. His first book, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir, the tale of two distinctive people -- his parents -- and his efforts to survive them, is now in its third printing and recently in paperback. amzn.to/1Gcqkhg Fertel is president of the Fertel Foundation and co-founded, with the Nation Institute, the Ridenhour Prizes for Courageous Truth-Telling, named for My Lai whistleblower and investigative reporter Ron Ridenhour. (ridenhour.org). He lives in New Orleans and New York.
Product Dimensions:6 x 1 x 9 inches
Pages:522
Publication Date:March 15, 2015