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Encounter EEs/EHEs ,The Other
Record Type: Review   ID: 214

Discoveries of the Other:Alterity in the Work of Leonard Cohen, Huber Aquin, Michael Ondaatje, & Nicole Brossard

Siemerling, Winfried

 This complex, dense, intricate study of literary works by four Canadian authors is quite instructive in regard to exceptional human experience, although it does not deal directly with an EHE. It is about two ways of responding to the other, where the "other" is another person. An exceptional experience is a profound confrontation with the possible reality of an "other," another reality altogether from the one we were taught. We can respond to an exceptional experience in one of two ways: we can try to fit it into the status quo by explaining it away, or we can open ourselves to it and explore it until it changes us by expanding our limits of what to us is the status quo. Only by meeting and learning from the "other" can we grow beyond our self-limits. In EHE terms, an EHE loosens our identification with the ego-self and enhances our awareness of the self that is all things—or the All-Self. We not only go out to embrace what had been unthinkable but we leave behind what had been taken for granted. Siemerling, in his examination of the postcolonial texts of the four authors, describes two approaches to the Other. In one the other is absorbed in a manner in which the observer is unchanged—a kind of "more of the same" approach. In the other approach qualities of this other are unlike what one has previously identified with. By "taking in" these qualities, one’s self is also changed. It can indeed be frightening to have to change in order to authentically respond to an other. This is why meaningful literary criticism such as Siemerling engages in here can serve as a bridge. You can get an idea and some feel for how this second, more productive way of meeting with the Other can occur. this can prepare you for the next opportunity to meet an other comes along. (In the EHE sense, the Other need not be a person—it could be an animal, plant, rock, or a being that we have been taught is not real, such as a miraculous vision, on an alien encounter, or an apparition. Siemerling uses two terms for the two ways of response to an Other. Thetic is the approach that Western culture, at least, has primarily adopted: understanding the unknown by means of the known. The other form, which is emphasized in this book, he calls heterology, in which in discovering that about another that is other than oneself, this very discovery makes it difficult or impossible to return to one’s former identity. Rather, one must forge a new one that in turn will be altered again by its discoveries of new others.
Publisher Information:Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Bibl: 233-244; Ind: 245-255; Name Ind: 256-259
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