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Shaming The Devil: Essays In Truthtelling

de Alan Jacobs

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"Shaming the Devil" offers a compelling series of reflections that explore how hard it is to tell the truth about the world of culture -- and how central that task is to the Christian life. Employing the literary essay as a powerful means for cultural criticism and using other writers and thinkers as friends and foils in his quest, Alan Jacobs incisively and insightfully revisits the question asked by Pilate and so many others through history: bWhat is truth'b In the first part of the book, Jacobs contemplates the work of people whom he takes to be exemplary truth seekers: Rebecca West, W. H. Auden, Albert Camus, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Linda Gregerson, and Leon Kass. He then engages writers who challenge the search for truth: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Iris Murdoch, Wole Soyinka, Philip Pullman, and Anne Carson. The third section of the book consists of a single lengthy essay that pursues the provocative question of whether todaybs computer technology helps or hinders us in our pursuit of truth.Extremely well written and rich in wisdom, "Shaming the Devil" will appeal to anyone interested in literature, modern culture, and the Christian worldview.… (més)
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I happened on this book by happy accident. I couldn't find one of Jacob's books which would have been helpful for a class, so I picked this one up. It wasn't the least bit helpful. But it was enjoyable. The title comes from Hotspur's council to Glendower in Shakspeare's Henry IV part I:

And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil
By telling the truth: tell truth and shame the devil.
If thou have power to raise him, bring him hither,
I'll be sworn I have the power to shame him hence.
O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil.

Jacobs proceeds through this book to explore truth telling, largely through his capacity as a literary critic. He divides the essays in his book into three parts. Part I, he deals with exemplars. Here he talks about authors who were committed to telling the whole truth, as they saw it. In Part II, Explorations, Jacobs explores a different set of authors whom he feels short shrifted the truth in their literary output. In Part III, an Experiment, Jacobs explores the ways in which technologies circumscribe our quests for truth. Perhaps because his technological references are dated (this book was written in 2004!), this is the weakest part of the book. But it is an enjoyable read nonetheless.

I have never read a book by Jacobs before, but I have always found his articles in Books & Culture reflective and thoughtful, this book is no exception. I hope to find his book which would be useful for me.

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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
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"Shaming the Devil" offers a compelling series of reflections that explore how hard it is to tell the truth about the world of culture -- and how central that task is to the Christian life. Employing the literary essay as a powerful means for cultural criticism and using other writers and thinkers as friends and foils in his quest, Alan Jacobs incisively and insightfully revisits the question asked by Pilate and so many others through history: bWhat is truth'b In the first part of the book, Jacobs contemplates the work of people whom he takes to be exemplary truth seekers: Rebecca West, W. H. Auden, Albert Camus, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Linda Gregerson, and Leon Kass. He then engages writers who challenge the search for truth: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Iris Murdoch, Wole Soyinka, Philip Pullman, and Anne Carson. The third section of the book consists of a single lengthy essay that pursues the provocative question of whether todaybs computer technology helps or hinders us in our pursuit of truth.Extremely well written and rich in wisdom, "Shaming the Devil" will appeal to anyone interested in literature, modern culture, and the Christian worldview.

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