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Roald Dahl and Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction: Roald Dahl and Absurdity: Children's Literature and the Divorce between the Mind that Desires and the World that Disappoints Jacob M. Held 1 Epicurus and the Chocolate Factory Benjamin Rider 2 On Getting Our Just Desserts: Willy Wonka, Immanuel Kant, and the Summum Bonum Jacob M. Held 3 Matilda, Existentialist Super-Hero Elizabeth Butterfield 4 The Existential Journey of James Henry Trotter: Kierkegaard, Freedom, and Despair in James and the Giant Peach Matthew Bokma and Adam Barkman 5 Of Mice and (Posthu)Man: Roald Dahl's The Witches and Ethics Beyond Humanism Taine Duncan 6 "Who is this Crazy Man?": Willy Wonka's Uneasy Predicament Cam Cobb 7 "He will be altered quite a bit:" Discipline and Punishment in Willy Wonka's Factory Marc Napolitano 8 Matilda and the Philosophy of Education, or What's an Education For? John V. Karavitis 9 Shattering the Glass Elevator: Authenticity and Social Order in the Works of Roald Dahl Joseph J. Foy and Timothy M. Dale 10 The Fantastically Just Mr. Fox: Property and Distributive Justice According to Foxes and other Diggers Jacob M. Held 11 Willy Wonka and the Imperial Chocolate Factory Ron Novy 12 George's Marvelous Medicine, or: What Should We Do About Global Hunger? Janelle Potzsch 13 Crodswoggle, Flushbunking, and All Things Friendship in the BFG Chad Kleist 14 Charlie and the Nightmare Factory: The Art of Children's Horror Fiction Greg Littman 15 Brimful of Buzzburgers: A Human Bean's Wild Possibilities Miranda Nell 16 Dewey, Negative Capability, and the Wonder of Roald Dahl Tanya Jeffcoat Twits, Witches, and Dirty Beasts: Author Bios

About the Author

Jacob M. Held is associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the editor of Dr. Seuss and Philosophy: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! R&L 2011.


This book is a masterful look at Roald Dahl's enduring stories, and engages with the wisdom of the ages about dealing with great difficulty, making the best of where we are, and creating our own inner character as we stare into the abyss of challenge and uncertainty in the world. It will be sure to delight any fan of these popular and fantastical tales. -- Tom Morris, author of Philosophy for Dummies and If Aristotle Ran General Motors Willy Wonka and Kant; Matilda and Camus; James Henry Trotter and Kierkegaard? Odd as these pairings may seem, Roald Dahl and Philosophy shows us that Dahl's fictional characters have a lot in common with these famous philosophers. Readers of this book will be both startled and excited to learn that kids' books have an unimagined philosophical and existential depth. Pick up a copy and see! -- Thomas Wartenberg, Professor of Philosophy, Mt. Holyoke College There are those who contend that the stories that entertained us in our childhood are not appropriate objects of philosophical analysis. Roald Dahl and Philosophy challenges this view by offering a wide array of insightful and eminently philosophical essays on classics in the Dahl canon. Addressing well-known works such as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well lesser known ones such as The Witches, Jacob Held and his contributors draw compelling connections between Dahl's works and works by canonical figures in philosophy including Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, John Locke, Soren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, Michel Foucault, and John Rawls. Examining, among others, how Dahl's work relates to conversations regarding humanism, horror, distributive justice, gender norms, and existential authenticity, Held and his colleagues literally open a new avenue of access to Dahl's work, augmenting the delight these works brought us in our childhood, and enhancing our appreciation of this beloved author and his work. -- Jennifer L. McMahon, author of The Philosophy of Tim Burton [A]n invigorating roundtable discussion. Publishers Weekly

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