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The Bond of the Furthest Apart

Essays on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Bresson, and Kafka

In the French filmmaker Robert Bresson’s cinematography, the linkage of fragmented, dissimilar images challenges our assumption that we know either what things are in themselves or the infinite ways in which they are entangled. The “bond” of Sharon Cameron’s title refers to the astonishing connections found both within Bresson’s films and across literary works by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Kafka, whose visionary rethinkings of experience are akin to Bresson’s in their resistance to all forms of abstraction and classification that segregate aspects of reality. 

Whether exploring Bresson’s efforts to reassess the limits of human reason and will, Dostoevsky’s subversions of Christian conventions, Tolstoy’s incompatible beliefs about death, or Kafka’s focus on creatures neither human nor animal, Cameron illuminates how the repeated juxtaposition of disparate, even antithetical, phenomena carves out new approaches to defining the essence of being, one where the very nature of fixed categories is brought into question. An innovative look at a classic French auteur and three giants of European literature, The Bond of the Furthest Apart will interest scholars of literature, film, ethics, aesthetics, and anyone drawn to an experimental venture in critical thought.

320 pages | 75 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Film Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory, Germanic Languages, Slavic Languages

Philosophy: Ethics


"[Cameron] teases out a more tenuous, more originally imagined thread of connections between the filmmaker and the writers. . .poetically imagined. . . .The achievement of this book, with its motley crew of gifted storytellers, is to extract from their art the imaginative resources to think and perceive, at least momentarily, outside blinkering, enculturated categories and ideas. . .Cameron's readings give sensuous form to philosophical concepts."

Modern Language Notes

"The enigmatic title of Sharon Cameron’s latest book offers a solution to a very basic problem in comparative literature, namely: when we compare literature across differences and find affinities we feel compelled to use materialist historicism, network analysis, and other narratives of circulation and synthesis to demonstrate the transmission of influence or else explain such coincidences as a parallel efflorescence. The Bond of the Furthest Apart models a transcendentalist approach to comparative literature anchored in Emerson’s notion of impersonal intimacy, its hermeneutics carried over and intensified from her two earlier books. . . .The Bond repeatedly enlists comparison to the mystery of experience—first as something that is not really yours, then as something whose integrity depends on your not readily associating it with anything else."

Comparative Literature

The Bond of the Furthest Apart is a powerful description of the ethical dimension of aesthetic experience and is in conversation with some of the best work in continental philosophy. It will have a broad appeal across film studies, literary studies, and philosophy.”

Brian Price, University of Toronto

“Original to the point of uniqueness, this is a work of literary and film criticism, but its arguments and insights are fundamentally philosophical. Beneath the vast differences, both within the work of the artists Cameron is so closely studying and between the visions of each of the artists, is a kind of nonconformist unity, a resistance to whatever teaches us to look away, to hide among abstractions, not to see what we are seeing.”

Michael Wood, Princeton University

"Cameron comes to Bresson via Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and her readings of those Russian authors, and of Kafka, in many ways form the backbone of her book, showing the probing, often microscopic, and philosophically inflected adroitness for which her works of criticism have been so frequently lauded....[She] also brings herself as critic to pose radical questions about ethical relations and ultimately to instantiate, splendidly, an ethics."

David Wells | Raritan

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1 Animal Sentience: Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar
2 “Outside Christ”: Dostoevsky’s Joy
3 The Sight of Death in Tolstoy
4 Robert Bresson’s Pathos
5 Kafka’s No-Hope Spaces


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