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Cervantes and the coming of modern times. 
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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
Robert, I mean the following remark in a nice and complimentary way, because I've enjoyed from time to time listening to preachers give their sermons. Have you ever done any sermonizing yourself? I ask because it appears to me that you use as your text the book Don Quixote in exactly the same way that a preacher uses another well-known book. The book serves as your point of departure for elaboration of your philosophic/moral vision, which is a fine one, certainly. But that's just the problem for me, that you depart from the book so often in assigning significance to aspects of it. Radical difference in approach: I think that the primary job of discussion of a novel, of fiction, is to remain within its world, whereas you appear to think the job is to place the novel within the drift of intellectual history. And you appear to assume that any fiction writer has a purpose beyond an artistic or literary one, that of statement or instruction. Or, if it is really only about DQ that you have this idea, what makes you so sure of it?

Sorry for messing up my previous post.


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Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:00 am
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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
DWill wrote:
Robert, I mean the following remark in a nice and complimentary way, because I've enjoyed from time to time listening to preachers give their sermons. Have you ever done any sermonizing yourself? I ask because it appears to me that you use as your text the book Don Quixote in exactly the same way that a preacher uses another well-known book. The book serves as your point of departure for elaboration of your philosophic/moral vision, which is a fine one, certainly. But that's just the problem for me, that you depart from the book so often in assigning significance to aspects of it. Radical difference in approach: I think that the primary job of discussion of a novel, of fiction, is to remain within its world, whereas you appear to think the job is to place the novel within the drift of intellectual history. And you appear to assume that any fiction writer has a purpose beyond an artistic or literary one, that of statement or instruction. Or, if it is really only about DQ that you have this idea, what makes you so sure of it?


I do have a deconstructive approach to literature, looking primarily to what a book has to say about the big themes of human history and identity. This approach seems to me to work very well with Don Quixote because Cervantes himself licences it, especially with his comment that writers should balance entertainment and instruction. There is no need to depart too far from the book to find the meaning in it, as its comment on the drift of ideas sits just below the surface. “Sitting within Cervantes’world” presents a completely ambiguous project, because he lived at a time when the old world was collapsing and the new world had barely begun. Hence his ambivalence regarding whether Don Quixote is a hero or a fool or both.

DWill wrote:
The lynchpin of your and Valiunas' argument is that Cervantes ... can make his point about Christianity being based on outrageous fantasies.Cervantes is not, however, attacking or even satirizing knight errantry tales in the book.
As I mentioned before, Cervantes says on the last page that the whole point of the book is to stop people from taking chivalrous books seriously. I can’t believe you don’t see the satire regarding errantry, as it is laid on with dollops.
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I give Cervantes credit for knowing an appropriate subject for attack or ridicule, and knight errantry isn't such a subject. It's already, on its face, the stuff of incredible and entertaining stories for the masses, needing no one to persuade people that it's objectively false. There is no evidence that I know of that people of the time were in some way showing that they took giants, wizards, magic, and impossible feats as reality. No attack on these works of fiction was needed, which is fortunate, because if this is all that DQ was, the book would be quickly dated and forgotten.
I think you exaggerate popular intelligence. Here at booktalk we have one troll who believes the universe is 6000 years old. People live in a trashy universe of the mind populated by movie stars. The nature of epic tales, whether the Iliad or the Ballads of Lancelot and Galahad, is that the narrator seeks to make them plausible for his audience. Homer’s illiterate listeners, many of whom had never ventured beyond their home valley, could well have thought the lotus eaters, the floating island, the descent to hell, Polyphemus the Cyclops and all the other fantastic tales were honestly recorded and told.
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Dialogue you quoted a while back showed two ecclesiastical types going pro and con on the subject of these romances. This exemplifies Cervantes' dramatic--not polemical--strategy in the book. Cervantes came up with a brilliant what if for Don Quixote. What if there was a man who so taken with these extraordinary tales that he actually believed in their truth and tried to replicate the deeds of knights errant? The device works because Don sallies forth and astounds everyone with the novelty of his strange passion.
What if there was a man who believed the universe was 6000 years old, that Goliath was a real giant, that Satan showed Christ all the kingdoms of the earth from atop a high mountain, that believers will go to heaven when they die? All these are just as incredible as the idea that a windmill is a giant. The temper of the times was the shift from authority to evidence as the basis of belief. Cervantes struck a chord in his subtle lampooning of trust in authority. The device works because people can relate to hearing crazy ideas and knowing they are rubbish.
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According to the Valiunas/Tulip thesis, the supernatural aspects of knight errantry tales are credibly attacked, which may as well mean that Catholic doctrines such as the virgin birth and the resurrection itself are attacked as well. I've said several times already that the evidence for this appears weak and is largely extra-textual. “Knight errantry is the proxy for all orthodox dogmatism.”
Yet at other times you have presented knight errantry as the saving idealism of Don Quixote. Which is it to be? It can't be both demon and angel unless you are charging the author with incoherence.
It is a deliberate incoherence. Cervantes steps boldly into the realm of paradoxical uncertainty, unsure, with Kepler, about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. He respects noble ideals, but sees they are enframed in superstition. By lampooning the frame perhaps he hopes to preserve the masterpiece. Even orthodox dogma has some redeeming content. Remember, demon (daimon) is the old word for angel, illustrating the slippery ambiguity of words.
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The Moor's authorship presents Don Quixote with a possibility he had not considered: The truth can come from an unauthorized source.
What about the narrator's continual knowing comments about "this true history," indicating that he actually doubts the veracity of Cide Hamete? You've made a point of this to show that the narrator means the opposite of what he says. Now he means exactly what he says?
It is Don Quixote, not Cervantes, who believes Cide Hamete is absolutely correct in every respect. Cervantes is far more circumspect, to the point of mockery and satire of all claims about ‘true history’.



Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:45 pm
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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I do have a deconstructive approach to literature, looking primarily to what a book has to say about the big themes of human history and identity.

Okay, if that's what your interest is. This approach, when applied to most novels I can think of, is highly speculative. Fiction is an art, and it always seems best to me to treat it as such, rather than disguised or coded philosophy or moralizing.
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This approach seems to me to work very well with Don Quixote because Cervantes himself licences it, especially with his comment that writers should balance entertainment and instruction.

Yes, and that's why we have Don giving these long lessons on various topics. That's the entertainment/instruction principle in action, within the boundary of the fiction. That's a lot different from Cervantes having the overarching instructional design you're claiming he has.
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There is no need to depart too far from the book to find the meaning in it, as its comment on the drift of ideas sits just below the surface. “Sitting within Cervantes’world” presents a completely ambiguous project, because he lived at a time when the old world was collapsing and the new world had barely begun. Hence his ambivalence regarding whether Don Quixote is a hero or a fool or both.

But this part about the old world collapsing is your idea imported to this book. You have no real basis for saying that Cervantes was writing from his sense of being caught between two worlds. Surely as a literary artist he has some conscious control over the characters he creates and does not make Don Quixote ridiculous yet admirable because pulled by the historical strings you say are tugging at him.
Robert Tulip wrote:
As I mentioned before, Cervantes says on the last page that the whole point of the book is to stop people from taking chivalrous books seriously.

Cide Hamete Bengeli makes this declaration. Cervantes gives him some play as a character in the novel, and occasionally Cide serves as a moral voice, something that the narrator-editor studiously avoids. Think about the dramatic appropriateness of Cide making this statement. As you quoted earlier, the view given of Moors is that they demand things that are "simple and palpable." It thus fits nicely that Cide would have this outlook on the extravagant books of knight errantry. His is only one voice in the novel, and this declaration cannot be taken as a resolution proposed by Cervantes. Whether escapist, stereotypical books are good or bad is a matter of sufficient human complexity that Cervantes doesn't try to tell us the correct view, because he knows there isn't one. He has characters give differing views, such as the canon and the priest, and of course Don and Sancho.
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I can’t believe you don’t see the satire regarding errantry, as it is laid on with dollops.

Yes, this heavy laying on would be in the manner of broad comedy or farce. If this were social satire, Cervantes would expose the foolishness or vice of society, and he doesn't, in regard to some supposed delusion about the reality of knight errantry or to any other social custom of the time. Don and Sancho need to be the only people so deluded in order for Cervantes' idea to work at all.
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
According to the Valiunas/Tulip thesis, the supernatural aspects of knight errantry tales are credibly attacked, which may as well mean that Catholic doctrines such as the virgin birth and the resurrection itself are attacked as well. I've said several times already that the evidence for this appears weak and is largely extra-textual. “Knight errantry is the proxy for all orthodox dogmatism.”
Yet at other times you have presented knight errantry as the saving idealism of Don Quixote. Which is it to be? It can't be both demon and angel unless you are charging the author with incoherence.
It is a deliberate incoherence. Cervantes steps boldly into the realm of paradoxical uncertainty, unsure, with Kepler, about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. He respects noble ideals, but sees they are enframed in superstition. By lampooning the frame perhaps he hopes to preserve the masterpiece. Even orthodox dogma has some redeeming content. Remember, demon (daimon) is the old word for angel, illustrating the slippery ambiguity of words.

I'm not sure this is deconstruction so much as constructing an intent that the text can't support.
Quote:
It is Don Quixote, not Cervantes, who believes Cide Hamete is absolutely correct in every respect. Cervantes is far more circumspect, to the point of mockery and satire of all claims about ‘true history’.

That's a good correction. It's important to keep the voices separate. The narrator-editor is not Cervantes, either, of course. The narrator's contribution consists of the chapter titles mostly, and they do have that joking, mock-heroic, mock-serious tone. Unless, that is, you want to get into the possibility that the narrator is fabricating Cide Hamete and making up the entire story. Then the narrator's role expands.


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Last edited by DWill on Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:07 am, edited 6 times in total.



Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
giselle wrote:
what is Cervantes saying about knight errantry? Is he saying it’s an archaic practice that should be left as a relic of the past or celebrating it and suggesting that we learn from it? Or does he value knight errantry as a great source of entertainment (like many of his time) and a great way to sell books? Or is he using the latter as a vehicle to accomplish the former? There are many layers here and, I think, questions attached to each layer.
I’ve been meaning to respond to these great questions and comments from Giselle. The wonderful thing about knight errantry is the idea of selfless compassion, of armed service for justice and truth in the face of anarchic misery. The dark ages were a time of rule by the sword. Errantry puts the sword in service of law, representing the divine nobility of Christ, so the warrior defends the helpless instead of embarking on an evil quest for domination and control. Errantry was part of the ideal of Christendom as a society of rule of law, and the myth continued into the modern world with Superman and Batman as knights errant.

However, part of the irony for Cervantes is that by his time the knight in armour had long been obsolete. A recent article by Freeman Dyson in the New York Review of Books cites the knight on horseback as a failed piece of military insanity, along with the dreadnought battleship and the Star Wars shield against nuclear weapons, as a strategic technology that was grossly wasteful and was never able to work as intended.

I’ve been enchanted by the story of Lancelot of the Lake since before I could read. The mythology of the entertainment involves the context of the quest for the holy grail, the ideals of purity and valour, the presence of danger and magic, and the moral lessons. By Cervantes’ time, modern technology was already making the feudal social relations obsolete. This is why the windmill is such an evocative symbol; it represents the impersonal power of industrial production of food, replacing the charm of the medieval ox turning the millstone with a new vast power. Of course today we see windmills as quaint and old-fashioned because technology has advanced so much further, but then they were relatively new. Confusing one with a giant deliberately mixed the Arthurian charm of the grail quest with the impersonal factory of mercantile capitalism.
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I continue to find Cervantes theme of enchantment interesting and relevant to our times. As I read, I see more of enchantment and the way it influences Quixote’s mind and less of outright madness, but perhaps I am being generous toward him. In any case, I think he genuinely believes in enchantment and sees it all around and so it is real to him. President Camacho « 08 Jun 2010 12:13 » im safe, Tulip doesn't read the shoutbox
I agree, except that self-delusion is madness, so anyone who claims that their belief proves the world is wrong on such flimsy grounds is indeed mad. Yet, the problem remains that we have a nagging wonder regarding enchantment, a sense that perhaps the world is indeed more complex than our surface impressions suggest, that we are actually connected to the universe by intricate webs of mystery, creating subtle layers of reality that our science cannot detect. The miracles of Christ are entirely a gesture towards this sense of mystery, that there is more in heaven and earth than can be explained by philosophy. Descartes used Cervantes’ device of the ‘evil enchanter’ to argue that logically, solipsism is possible, and is only refuted by faith in God.
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Children today typically view the world to be full of enchantment as I’m sure children did in Cervantes time. Our institutions are designed to drum enchantment and magic out of children because as mainstream society we desire stability and predictability, we do not think enchantment has a place in the adult world. We label it all sorts of negative things and we slot those who believe in enchantment into some pretty undesirable places.
A while back we read the book The Secret Garden, in which this theme of childhood sense of innocent enchantment is presented as a way to find meaning in a bleak world. The disenchantment of the world is a central theme of modern enlightenment, with the mechanistic exploitation of matter seen as the basis of production of wealth. If we regard trees and rocks and animals as ensouled, we risk a collapse in confidence of the human right to dominion over nature, the faith that has motivated the imperial conquest of the world.
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Today the school system is likely the number one suppression culprit whereas in Cervantes time it was more likely the church. Although we have worked hard to suppress wacky ideas like enchantment, our suppression system is not water tight and some people slip through the cracks bringing the notion of enchantment into the adult world and into the mainstream. When this happens, do we foster this enchantment or do we suppress it because it challenges our ways and creates disorder and fear? I’m not sure, and perhaps we are not consistent one way or the other, but I feel an adult world with enchantment is a whole lot richer than a world without. Perhaps enchantment itself is an airy fairy concept but really it’s not just enchantment at stake because with enchantment may come many beneficial, productive things, like innovativeness, and these benefits will be gained only if valued and supported and nurtured through thoughtful social policy.
I’m not sure that enchantment is allowed into the mainstream, except perhaps in the controlled ‘suspension of disbelief’ in books and movies such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Anyone who believes that magic is possible gets very short shrift. What we do see is enchantment controlled on the fringes of the mainstream, with Christian belief in miracles and the eternal soul, and also with New Age beliefs like astrology. Part of the culture war is over this problem of enchantment, that the mainstream insists it is meaningless and wacky, but many people find that it resonates with their experience, so there is a loss of faith in mainstream values around science and progress.



Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:56 am
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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I’ve been meaning to respond to these great questions and comments from Giselle. The wonderful thing about knight errantry is the idea of selfless compassion, of armed service for justice and truth in the face of anarchic misery. The dark ages were a time of rule by the sword. Errantry puts the sword in service of law, representing the divine nobility of Christ, so the warrior defends the helpless instead of embarking on an evil quest for domination and control. Errantry was part of the ideal of Christendom as a society of rule of law, and the myth continued into the modern world with Superman and Batman as knights errant.

Maybe in errantry's modern incarnation, crusaders became interested in social justice. In the original knight errantry--which, let's be clear, is entirely a literary invention--I'm not aware that these heroes were in any true sense democratic warriors, but rather vassals of the power structure.


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Last edited by DWill on Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:15 am
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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
DWill wrote:
Maybe in errantry's modern incarnation, crusaders became interested in social justice. In the original knight errantry--which, let's be clear, is entirely a literary invention--I'm not aware that these heroes were in any true sense democratic warriors, but rather vassals of the power structure.

From my post above dated 5 June
Quote:
Maidens and modesty, as I have said, wandered at will alone and unattended, without fear of insult from lawlessness or libertine assault, and if they were undone it was of their own will and pleasure. But now in this hateful age of ours not one is safe, not though some new labyrinth like that of Crete conceal and surround her; even there the pestilence of gallantry will make its way to them through chinks or on the air by the zeal of its accursed importunity, and, despite of all seclusion, lead them to ruin. In defence of these, as time advanced and wickedness increased, the order of knights-errant was instituted, to defend maidens, to protect widows and to succour the orphans and the needy.


It is all about rescuing damsels in distress, with a Christian dash of prophetic care for widows and orphans.



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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
Quick response! I concede the point. I wish we had seen Don do more of this in the novel; it wouldn't have been as entertaining to the audience, though. He's wrong about the golden age, but it hardly matters.


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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
I've found DQ's talk of 'letters and arms' in the second novella (and elsewhere) really intriguing. His cogent argument belies his apparent mad state of mind and I think Cervantes is already showing that there is more to DQ than madness and buffoonery. I suppose that Cervantes is speaking directly to the reader here. I'm wondering about other reading on letters and arms? I'm thinking about the development of the state, emerging from the age of powerful church institutions.

Also, Cervantes use of 'generic' character labels, like 'judge' and 'captive' and 'priest' is interesting. I think repeated identification in this way reinforces the character role more strongly than the use of names. In contrast to modern times, where I think this idea seems a bit antiquated, a person's lineage and/or role in life would be their identity and what matters most in life. Modern, western society is so individualistic and me-centered that we expect our personal identities to be enough in most situations.



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Post Re: Cervantes and the coming of modern times.
Supposing that one is able to distinguish between the madness of Quixote as a fictional character and visionary intuition of the author - in the case of Quixote this moment of distinction implies a suspension of reality, not reality as in a definition of the world physically around us, but the form of reality as the validity of the realistic nature. Ffor the very impulse towards such a collected concept as madness to become real in a fictional context. As a result of the identification of similarly corrective if not collective actions typified by the madness we encounter inside of the very madness we imagine - to be in a state of existence without causality, undiagnosable under scrutiny, mistaken or otherwise. His every mistaken act of madness reinforces the role of the mad man in our social history to the revered position of spiritual leader, the undeniable interesting other, the platform for invention a significantly deep message from the medium of one who is neither significant nor possessing depth of character. Simplistically speaking, it seems an example of the way we model the lessons we take from the mistakes of others. On the other hand Quixote was mistaken yet thought himself honourable where we may find ourselves correct yet feel unscrupulous in the depth of a trying situations. We are deserted by our sanity when it matters most where Quixote remains firm in his tragic weakness. The inexplicability of his actions to some rational cause inspires us to, in an act of imitation like the madman's imitation of the books he had read, question the validity of our own conceptions not only of reality but of our reflexive (a la Foucault & Popper) or principal views towards phychologically motivated characters. The very stiffness of the mediums characterization forms an axiomatic essence of the Don Quixote character, the aesthetic abstinence from fluidity, the resistance to personal diagnosis challenges us. As if being agreeable is contrary to Quixote's chief characteristics.

A lover of Quixote may well take in the narrative of facts and care very little on contemplating the intention of the character (qua the author) giving preference to the amusing characterization. Perhaps in my reading the uppermost archetypal facet of Quixote will prove to be his to amuse, his madness when taken as a metaphor prosaic. Our own desire to obtain a portion of the story, to take on a shadow of Quixote's inspirational madness, to look from the book as if one will be granted the romantically forcefull capability of force fiction onto the patterns of reality with the effect translating our mundane frames of reference much in the same manner the translator has produced a modern formulation of Cervantes magnum opus. The living through of another's work to a language one is fluent, of placing one's name next to Quixote's. The illustrious form of madness described by Foucault in "Madness and Civilization" as madness by romantic identification.

"In appearance, this is nothing but the simple-minded critique of novels of fantasy, but just under the surface lies an enormous anxiety concerning the relationships, in a work of art, between the real and the imaginary, and perhaps also concerning the confused communication between fantastic invention and the fascinations of delirium."

So we can assume that the madness of Quixote will be infectious. On this assumption we can base the source of his madness not in his fictional actions, but on the readers ability to come of something out of the nothingness of Quixote's phycological non-reality. Contact with the blurred forms, of the historical contexts and spurious innovations contextualized fundamentally in our own imaginations grants a transitional suspension. This eager peering onto this very temptation, this single minded wonder in company of the preposterous, the love of embellishment. Is it not this transitional suspension, the reliance on The Book which is truth, that can no better define Quixote's conundrum and our own?

The fallacy of transitional suspension of reality seems only dramatic when the madness of the passion goes contrary to reality, any other form is simply a choice favouring punishment or despair within a dimension of error. Illusions come to their climax and turned against their inventor, the madness is the false punishment of a false solution by its own virtue bringing to light the real problem that is the taking of false illusions for truth. Foucault tells us that, “[i]n madness equilibrium is established, but it masks that equilibrium beneath a cloud of illusion, beneath feigned disorder; the rigour of the architect is concealed beneath the cunning arrangement of these disordered violences.”



Last edited by Grim on Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:22 pm, edited 6 times in total.



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Sense and Goodness Without God - by Richard CarrierFrankenstein - by Mary ShelleyThe Big Questions - by Simon BlackburnScience Was Born of Christianity - by Stacy TrasancosThe Happiness Hypothesis - by Jonathan HaidtA Game of Thrones - by George R. R. MartinTempesta's Dream - by Vincent LoCocoWhy Nations Fail - by Daron Acemoglu and James RobinsonThe Drowning Girl - Caitlin R. KiernanThe Consolations of the Forest - by Sylvain TessonThe Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons - by David FitzgeraldA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - by James JoyceThe Divine Comedy - by Dante AlighieriThe Magic of Reality - by Richard DawkinsDubliners - by James JoyceMy Name Is Red - by Orhan PamukThe World Until Yesterday - by Jared DiamondThe Man Who Was Thursday - by by G. K. ChestertonThe Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven PinkerLord Jim by Joseph ConradThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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