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Abstract

Literature is generally seen as depicting the lives of human subjects through their unique narratives. And that, while its endpoint may be universal, it is typically grounded in the specificity of a human being (or, occasionally, an animal). Philosophy is tasked with providing the foundational cognitive tools to grasp the meaning of experience for the whole. In Hegelian terms, it unfolds the history of the concept. Yet, as George Steiner, Jacques Derrida, and other recent authors have shown, both philosophy – along with its agonistic cousin, religion -- evoke literary themes, rhetorics, and struggles. Over the past fifty years, Continental philosophy has found a home for literature within philosophic discourse (and vice-versa). That is the backdrop for this special issue. The topic is suffering, as a concept and an experience. The theme of suffering is broad enough to accommodate many different approaches and texts. And that is hopefully borne out by the multiplicity of themes and authors the authors have chosen to discuss.

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