Over the course of his distinguished interdisciplinary career, Giles Gunn has sustained his focus on the continuing threats to our collective sense of the human that seem to result from the link between the collision of fundamental values and the increase of systemic violence. He asks whether such threats can be at least mitigated, even if not removed, by understanding as opposed to force and what resources a more pragmatic cosmopolitanism might provide for doing so. How, in other words, might our sense of the human be reconstructed, not around suspicion or antipathy toward others, but around an epistemological and moral need of them?
In this narrativized collection of his essays, Gunn introduces each one with a set of comments designed to explain his goal when first writing them and what they mean to him now. The variety of issues he addresses ranges from the theory of culture and cultural criticism (particularly in America), the philosophy of inter- and cross-disciplinary studies, and the psychology and politics of pragmatism to the ethics of human solidarity, the place of culture in the misshaping of international affairs, and the quest of both religion and culture for a new basis for the normative.
Giles Gunn is one of our most inventive and informed humanists. The essays collected here represent effectively the culmination of Gunn’s work as a religious studies scholar, pragmatist philosopher, American studies scholar, critical theorist, and global studies scholar. This volume is a shortcut to understanding a long, diverse, and influential career.
Giles Gunn has produced the most humane and grounded version of the cosmopolitan ideal that I have yet seen in print. Ideas to Live For is eloquent testimony to his undiminished vitality as a cultural critic and politically engaged intellectual.
Giles Gunn, author of The Culture of Criticism and the Criticism of Culture, among other books, is Professor of Global Studies and English and Affiliate Professor of Religious Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara.