This Side of Philosophy

Literature and Thinking in Twentieth-Century Spanish Letters

By Stephen Gingerich

Subjects: Literary Theory, Continental Philosophy, Hispanic Studies, Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series, Literature . . . in Theory
Hardcover : 9781438492216, 360 pages, February 2023
Paperback : 9781438492209, 360 pages, August 2023

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Table of contents

Preface: Life (before) Philosophy

1. Closer Than You Think: Spain and Philosophy

2. Relating Philosophy and Literature: Greeks and Romantics, Dichten-Denken, and le Poématique

3. Unamuno’s Twins: Feeling Philosophy and Philosophical Aesthesis

4. Josué Ortiga y Gazette and Reason’s Living Narrative

5. Antonio Machado, Writing Ephemeral Passages

6. “Inconstant Clarity”: The Antagonism of Philosophy and Poetry in María Zambrano

Epilogue: Philosophy after Life

Assesses a distinct style of thinking in twentieth-century Spanish writing, one in which literature plays a central role in reaching behind philosophy to essential sources of life and meaning.


Struck by the contrast between the prestige of their literary tradition and their apparent philosophical insignificance, modern writers from Spain have devoted themselves to exploring the relation between literature and philosophy. This Side of Philosophy focuses on four major authors—Miguel de Unamuno, José Ortega y Gasset, Antonio Machado, and María Zambrano—who engage literary resources in order to reach beyond philosophy to the essential sources of life. Connecting their work to that of other European thinkers dedicated to illuminating the fertile interaction of literature and philosophy—especially Plato, Schlegel, Heidegger, and Derrida—Stephen Gingerich makes a case for the relevance of Spanish thought to contemporary efforts to expand the ethical and theoretical powers of thinking through literature. At the same time, Gingerich challenges the conventional view that contemporary Spanish thought fuses or reconciles literature and philosophy, instead discerning a call to appreciate their difference in relation. For these writers, literature and philosophy are repulsed by each other as inexorably as they are drawn together.

Stephen Gingerich is Professor of Spanish at Cleveland State University. He is the translator of Doing Justice: Three Essays on Walter Benjamin by Pablo Oyarzun.


"This book offers a new perspective on why and how philosophy was 'literary' in Spain in the twentieth century, rooting this issue not in an authorial choice or a writing strategy but rather in the idea that it was through the possibilities of literature that life, considered a reality 'prior' to any philosophical inquiry, could be grasped." — Juan Herrero-Senés, co-editor of Avant-Garde Cultural Practices in Spain (1914-1936): The Challenge of Modernity