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The Knowing Most Worth Doing

Essays on Pluralism, Ethics, and Religion
Wayne Booth. Edited by Walter Jost

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813929927 · $49.50 · Aug 2010

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century until his death in 2005, Wayne Booth was one of the most influential literary critics in America and beyond, known worldwide for The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961), and hailed as a progressive advocate for rethinking the concept of liberal education in a changing world. His many books and essays remain classic reading for those who wish to understand how fiction communicates ethically, why good ethical criticism as such is a signature human activity to be cherished, and how the human desire to know helps to define who we are, collectively and individually.

In this final volume of Booth’s selected essays, appropriately titled The Knowing Most Worth Doing, after Booth’s earlier edited collection, The Knowledge Most Worth Having (1967), Walter Jost, in collaboration with the author, has gathered an indispensable collection of his former teacher’s thinking across a wide variety of fields and disciplines, from ethics to religion and from rhetorical criticism to the philosophical plurality of possible critical modes. The selections begin with three diverse, profound discussions of the need for plural perspectives in the contemporary world, proceed to accessible yet learned readings of the ethics of literature, and end with wonderful speculations on the nature of, and human need for, religious thought. Gathered from various journals and books over several decades, these "fugitive" essays will prove their enduring value because they speak frankly and without pretensions to problems that continue to plague us, and to aspirations that continue to draw a new generation into the knowing most worth doing. In these discussions, knowledge is understood as an activity and a way of life, one that can be embraced by all people in many different ways.


This important and well-executed collection provides evidence of both the diversity of Booth’s interests and the consistency of his thought. It will appeal to a substantial audience of Boothophiles, rhetoricians, literary critics and theorists, and students of religion.

James Phelan, Ohio State University, author of Living to Tell about It: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration

The Knowing Most Worth Doing simultaneously celebrates Booth’s career and offers his admirers easy access to significant but difficult-to-find essays. Like most of Booth’s best work, it manages to maintain a high intellectual level without requiring specialist knowledge of its readers and exhibits an enviable stylistic ease.

Peter J. Rabinowitz, Hamilton College, author of Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation

About the Author(s): 

Wayne C. Booth was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and the author of The Rhetoric of Fiction. Walter Jost is Professor of English at the University of Virginia, editor of The Essential Wayne C. Booth, and author of Rhetorical Investigations: Studies in Ordinary Language Criticism (Virginia).

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