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"The universe that others call the library"

reconstructing the symbolic mystifications of the world of everyday life

Jochen Dreher

pp. 195-205

The essay presents an interpretation of Jorge Luis Borges' story "The Library of Babel," starting from Alfred Schutz's theory of the life-world as well his symbol conception. The interpretation is based on the assumption that the specific symbolism represented by the "Library of Babel" is analyzed, taking into consideration the triad of author, work of art, and recipient. It is specifically the theory of the life-world which opens up the possibility for interpretations of the interference of reality spheres involved in the work of art, because this theoretical position on the interface of phenomenology and social science offers the conceptual instruments to reconstruct "the logic of the poetic event" of the literary aesthetic product. The "Library of Babel," in which infinite knowledge is gathered, is an allegory for the chaotic universe with which human existence – whose freedom is in reality an illusion – is confronted. The entire human undertaking of preserving knowledge, of objectivating the known into language, is reduced to absurdity. The accumulated knowledge surmounts human existence with the result that the individual is incapable to ever understand, capture, and control not even parts of the knowledge universe.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-01390-9_14

Full citation:

Dreher, J. (2014)., "The universe that others call the library": reconstructing the symbolic mystifications of the world of everyday life, in M. Barber & J. Dreher (eds.), The interrelation of phenomenology, social sciences and the arts, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 195-205.

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