The Deliverance of Others

Reading Literature in a Global Age

The Deliverance of Others

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 6 photographs Published: June 2012

Asian American Studies, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

The Deliverance of Others is a compelling reappraisal of the idea that narrative literature can expand readers' empathy. What happens if, amid the voluminous influx of otherness facilitated by globalization, we continue the tradition of valorizing literature for bringing the lives of others to us, admitting them into our world and valuing the difference that they introduce into our lives? In this new historical situation, are we not forced to determine how much otherness is acceptable, as opposed to how much is excessive, disruptive, and disturbing?

The influential literary critic David Palumbo-Liu suggests that we can arrive at a sense of responsibility toward others by reconsidering the discourses of sameness that deliver those unlike ourselves to us. Through virtuoso readings of novels by J. M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Ruth Ozeki, he shows how notions that would seem to offer some basis for commensurability between ourselves and others—ideas of rationality, the family, the body, and affect—become less stable as they try to accommodate more radical types of otherness. For Palumbo-Liu, the reading of literature is an ethical act, a way of thinking through our relations to others.


“Palumbo-Liu makes a persuasive case that the novel — as a self-conscious delivery system in its own right — offers a critical means for registering both the effects and the ‘affects’ of the new global delivery systems that connect us. In posing this ethical power as a problem for the global age, The Deliverance of Others renews our sense of literature’s profound importance for how we come to know others and ourselves.” — Casey Shoop, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Literature offers us a thick description of experience; certainly, a realistic literature makes no apology for this, and Palumbo-Liu pushes his formidable inquiry and sensitivity into this bramble patch. . . . The Deliverance of Others delves into the relationship amongst individual, society, cultures, economies, and civilizations. In its ambassadorial role, literature brings both self and ‘other’ before the eyes — and self encompasses both protagonist (as a nuanced, yet complex figure) and reader (as a representative of a given cultural sensibility).” — Lewis Fried, Key Reporter

“Palumbo-Liu precisely uses his ethical obligation in literary readings to bring to us The Deliverance of Others. This is an influential book which belongs on every shelf that wrestles with understanding the politics of difference, marginality and Otherness." — Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, Rocky Mountain Review

“Palumbo-Liu’s remarkable book goes some way toward answering a question we must take seriously and debate vigorously in the very specific conditions of the twenty-first-century attack on the humanities that also forms part of our current global age: that of why we should read literature at all.” — Kerry Bystrom, College Literature

“[A] fine new book. . . . expertly done, and the range of material covered—from cloning to Facebook, from mass media to close textual reading—is highly impressive.” — Paul Giles, Cultural Studies Review

“In Palumbo-Liu’s rigorous analysis, the limitations—and falsity—of the delivery systems founded on human commonality are laid bare.”  — Sue-Im Lee, symploke

"Palumbo-Liu’s thorough literary readings shows us what some of these approaches might look like in Western literary criticism, and asks us to think through what ethical actions might result—and what rewritings of otherness might we uncover—if we as readers continue to push furtherthese new interpretive tactics."  — Michelle O'Brien, Pennsylvania Literary Journal

“Scholars will find in The Deliverance of Others a new methodology for broaching the problem of how otherness is read in a literary text, one that does needed work in separating the evaluative criteria from discursive sites of privilege. More importantly, they will find an affirming argument for literature ‘to mean something a particular way that lets it reside in the space in between’ (178).” — Christopher Holmes, Contemporary Literature

“Palumbo-Liu draws on an extensive collection of theoretical frameworks, ranging from rational choice theory to the work of linguist Roman Jakobson to Benedict de Spinoza's theory of affect. This startling diverse array of critical starting points provides an invigorating framework for the study even if the reader is at times left desiring further engagement with each theorist. However, as noted in the preface, this text is ‘meant to be almost a kind of primer’ (xii); so, in this sense the level of engagement with the each theorist is perhaps ideal.” — Jennifer Manera Eadie, Modern Fiction Studies

"In an era when discussions of the role of the humanities are invariably accompanied by a sense of crisis, The Deliverance of Others is a timely reminder and bold defense of the value of literature, brimming with the conviction that an ethical globalism is indeed possible and that the path to it winds through the contemporary novel." — Yogita Goyal, Novel

"Certain to be an important and influential book, The Deliverance of Others examines the profound challenges that the 'contemporary' historical moment poses to literary novel-writing in the early twenty-first century, when the fine line between a 'sufficient' and an 'excessive' measure of otherness seems to have been trespassed, when, as David Palumbo-Liu puts it in his extraordinary reading of J. M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, readers of the novel are asked to imagine themselves confronting a 'tidal wave of difference' that exceeds the specific capacities of realist form and the more general compact that literary writing offers to strike between historical conditions and the liberal, sympathetic imagination." — Ian Baucom, author of Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History

"In The Deliverance of Others, the distinguished critic David Palumbo-Liu tackles broad questions of aesthetics and ethics in this 'age of otherness and virtual proximity.' By contrasting utilitarian notions of political economy with those of a system based on interdependent and ethically connected communities, he goes to the essential: How do we define truth in relation to reason and ethics and how do we understand the ways that literature and literary composition resonate differently in different global spaces, each with varying notions of rationality and choice?" — Françoise Lionnet, coeditor of The Creolization of Theory


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David Palumbo-Liu is Professor and Director of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier; the editor of The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions; and a coeditor of Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1. When Otherness Overcomes Reason 27

2. Whose Story Is It? 67

3. Art: A Foreign Exchange 96

4. Pacific Ocean Feeling: Affect, Otherness, Mediation 133

Conclusion 179

Notes 197

Bibliography 207

Index 215
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5269-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5250-1
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