Accident: A Philosophical and Literary History

Terry Eagleton writes:

Accident: A Philosophical and Literary History is a remarkably versatile study. The Divine Comedy, Raphael’s frescos, Montaigne on cannibalism, Pascal’s wager, Newtonian physics, 18th-century gambling, Persuasion, Darwinism, Surrealist film and photography: all this and a good deal more is grist to Hamilton’s mildly relentless mill. The concept of accident ropes in discussions of fortune, scepticism, selfhood, improbability, chance, interpretation and a host of other unlikely topics. But there are times when the subject threatens to disappear under this imposing weight of learning, only to re-emerge just when one thought it had sunk without trace. Hamilton does not keep a sharp enough eye on the storyline. There is a grand narrative struggling to get out of this study, which is the mysterious tale of the disappearing substance.

(LRB 25 September 2008)

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