The Edge of Meaning

How do you imagine the world, and yourself and others within it? How do you confront the constraints of language, the evils of your particular culture, the limits of your own mind? How do you use what you imagine to give meaning to your past experience and shape your expectations for the future? Such are the questions that drive The Edge of Meaning , by the distinguished humanist and lawyer James Boyd White. With the delicacy, range and style for which he is known, White brings these questions to a series of great works from Western culture. These provocative discussions reveal different kinds of language - from words to brushstrokes - that both enable and constrain our understanding. These include Thoreau's Walden , Twain's Huckleberry Finn , Homer's Odyssey , and Plato's Phaedrus , as well as the paintings of Vermeer, the structure of a modern legal case, and the poetry of Robert Frost and George Herbert. Throughout, White examines his own experience in light of this complex set of questions, drawing the reader further into the intricacies of our search for understanding. The sequence of the book's chapters also eloquently retraces the universal human quest for meaning, from the youthful belief that we can make sense of it all, to the ways in which we continue to pursue the possibility of meaning even when we realize that the world's uncertainty extends to our own minds and imaginations. Addressing the most fundamental imaginative and intellectual activity of human life, this moving book presents an inspiring conception of an art of mind and language that enables us to live with the uncertainty and fluidity that are themselves the essence of living.