On Trust - Josipovici, Gabriel - Yale University Press
Literary Studies

On Trust

Art and the Temptations of Suspicion

  • Gabriel Josipovici
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Out of Print.

In this wide-ranging book, an eminent novelist, playwright, and literary critic explores the question that has troubled artists and philosophers (though not critics) since the time of the Romantics: is it possible to create art today with the freedom of earlier ages and yet produce works that are more than merely decorative or commercial? Such a question, argues Gabriel Josipovici, is not timeless; it has a history, and a relatively short one at that. Why is it only with the Romantics that suspicion, not just of motive but of the very tools of art, language, and form, has become so insistent? Why could Shakespeare depict suspicion with such power and insight in the figures of Hamlet and Iago, yet himself work with such apparent ease within the conventions of his time?

To understand Romantic suspicion, the author argues, we need to understand what it supplanted and why. To that end he turns to the work created in what he calls cultures of trust, to Homer and the Hebrew Bible, to Dante and Shakespeare, before examining the interplay of trust and suspicion in a number of Romantic and post-Romantic writers from Wordsworth to Beckett. In a final chapter Josipovici draws on Wittgenstein’s later work to round out his argument that making comes before knowing, utterance before understanding, and that trust is not blind faith but rather a deep confidence in our being in the world and therefore in time and language. It is out of such confidence, he concludes, that art is always made, even if it is an art, like that of Kafka and Beckett, that turns the light of suspicion fiercely on itself.

Gabriel Josipovici is professor in the Humanities Graduate Research Centre, University of Sussex, and the author of many books, including The Book of God and Touch, both published by Yale University Press.