Rafe McGregor. The Value of Literature. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016, 161 + xi pp. ISBN 978-1-7834-8923-7

Mark Rowe

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McGregor’s book has a number of virtues: it is short, well informed, stylishly written, vigorously argued, and helpfully laid out (important theses are highlighted, for example, and previous positions carefully summarized). It also makes good use of many felicitously chosen literary examples, and is commendably thorough and fair-minded: the views of philosophers who oppose McGregor’s position – such as Noël Carroll and Martha Nussbaum – are expounded at length and subjected to careful and detailed examination. Occasionally, there are judgements which suggest a certain literary naivety (p. 138: ‘Dickens is a paradigmatic realist novelist […]’), and not much effort has been expended turning a PhD thesis into a book – ‘I began my thesis […]’ (p. 129), ‘I have been explicit throughout my thesis […]’ (p. 140) – but these blemishes do nothing to reduce the work’s overall quality.
McGregor defends an autonomist conception of literary value, and I criticize this view in the four sections which follow. I should make clear at the outset, however, that he defends his position very ably, and anyone writing about literary value will have to engage with his arguments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-137
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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