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Thursday, May 30, 2024

William Egginton's 'The Rigor of Angels'


The names suggested as an interview guest for the Hilaritas podcast in my recent blog post mostly are familiar to me, but the one offered by Lvx15 in the comments was a surprise: "William Egginton who’s most recent book hit on model agnosticism from several very RAW angles, quantum mechanics, literature and philosophy."

Since the name was new to me, I looked it up. Egginton is "is the Decker Professor in the Humanities, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, and Director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of multiple books, including How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher’s Desire (2007), The Theater of Truth (2010), In Defense of Religious Moderation (2011), The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World (2016), The Splintering of the American Mind (2018), and The Rigor of Angels (2023), which was named to several best of 2023 lists, including The New York Times and The New Yorker. He is co-author with David Castillo of Medialogies: Reading Reality in the Age of Inflationary Media (2017) and What Would Cervantes Do? Navigating Post-Truth with Spanish Baroque Literature (2022). His latest book, on the philosophical, psychoanalytic, and surrealist dimensions of the work of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, was published in January 2024."

That most recent book is called Alexander Jodorowsky: Filmmaker and Philosopher, although I suspect Lvx15 actually is referring to The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant and the Ultimate Nature of Reality, released last year. Here is the publisher's page on the book.  And here is a bit from the New York Times book review by Jennifer Szalai: "The Rigor of Angels explores nothing less than 'the ultimate nature of reality' through the life and work of three figures: the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges; the German theoretical physicist and pioneer of quantum mechanics, Werner Heisenberg; and the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Egginton, a literary scholar at Johns Hopkins, brings these three very different men together in one book because they all shared something unusual. They resisted the temptation to presume that there was a reality, out there, that was completely independent of our attempts to know it."

The Wikipedia bio of Egginton has links to many of the pieces he has written for the popular press. He is on X.  And speaking of quotes that remind us of RAW, see this Tweet. 


Oz Fritz said...

Fantastic introduction to Egginton who is new to me. I'm interested in both The Rigor of Angels ... (great title!) and the book on Jodorowsky. Thank-you!

Lvx15 said...

You were correct, I was unaware of the existence of the Jodorowsky book… will have to take a look.

I’ve long been a Borges fan and associate him with RAW because I got him to autograph my copy of Ficciones as Borges… (we’d just done watching F for Fake). Also my favorite Borges stories both contain and concern fakery as well.

The coverage of the history of quantum mechanics in Egginton’s book is something I think RAW fans will also very much enjoy. At least for me, I seem to have to relearn the details of QM about every other year or so.

I went in knowing little of Kant but learned much and enjoyed that Enlightenment period setting.