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What Pornography Knows offers a new history of pornography based on forgotten bawdy fiction of the eighteenth century, its nineteenth-century republication, and its appearance in 1960s paperbacks. Through close textual study, Lubey shows how these texts were edited across time to become what we think pornography is—a genre focused primarily on sex. Originally, they were far more variable, joining speculative philosophy and feminist theory to sexual description. Lubey's readings show that pornography always had a social consciousness—that it knew, long before anti-pornography feminists said it, that women and nonbinary people are disadvantaged by a society that grants sexual privilege to men. Rather than glorify this inequity, Lubey argues, the genre's central task has historically been to expose its artifice and envision social reform. Centering women's bodies, pornography refuses to divert its focus from genital action, forcing readers to connect sex with its social outcomes. At times inventing their own sexual anatomy and gender identity, at times having their bodies claimed and used by others, pornographic figures bring genitals to the fore, insisting they be justly treated rather than coldly transacted. Lubey offers a surprising take on a deeply misunderstood cultural form: pornography transforms sexual description into feminist commentary, she argues, revealing the genre's deep knowledge of how social inequities are perpetuated as well as plans for how to rectify them.
While much recent ecocriticism has questioned the value of nature as a concept, Thought's Wilderness insists that it is analytically and politically indispensable, and that romanticism shows us why. Without a concept of nature, Greg Ellermann argues, our thinking is limited to the world that capitalism has made. Defamiliarizing the tradition of romantic nature writing, Ellermann contends that the romantics tried to circumvent the domination of nature that is essential to modern capitalism. As he shows, poets and philosophers in the period such as Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Wordsworth, and Percy Shelley were highly attuned to nature's ephemeral, ungraspable forms: clouds of vapor, a trace of ruin, deep silence, and the "world-surrounding ether." Further, he explains how nature's vanishing—its vulnerability and its flight from apprehension—became a philosophical and political problem. In response to a nascent industrial capitalism, romantic writers developed a poetics of wilderness—a poetics that is attentive to fleeting presence and that seeks to let things be. Trying to imagine what ultimately eludes capture, the romantics recognized the complicity between conceptual and economic domination, and they saw how thought itself could become a technology for control. This insight, Ellermann proposes, motivates romantic efforts to think past capitalist instrumentality and its devastation of the world. Ultimately, this new work undertakes a fundamental rethinking of the aesthetics and politics of nature.
What happens if we read nineteenth-century and Victorian texts not for the autonomous liberal subject, but for singularity—for what is partial, contingent, and in relation, rather than what is merely "alone"? Feminine Singularity offers a powerful feminist theory of the subject—and shows us paths to thinking subjectivity, race, and gender anew in literature and in our wider social world. Through fresh, sophisticated readings of Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti, Charles Baudelaire, and Wilkie Collins in conversation with psychoanalysis, Black feminist and queer-of-color theory, and continental philosophy, Ronjaunee Chatterjee uncovers a lexicon of feminine singularity that manifests across poetry and prose through likeness and minimal difference, rather than individuality and identity. Reading for singularity shows us the ways femininity is fundamentally entangled with racial difference in the nineteenth century and well into the contemporary, as well as how rigid categories can be unsettled and upended. Grappling with the ongoing violence embedded in the Western liberal imaginary, Feminine Singularity invites readers to commune with the subversive potentials in nineteenth-century literature for thinking subjectivity today.
Novels are often said to help us understand how others think—especially when those others are profoundly different from us. When interpreting a character's behavior, readers are believed to make use of "Theory of Mind," the general human capacity to attribute mental states to other people. In many well-known nineteenth-century American novels, however, characters behave in ways that are opaque to readers, other characters, and even themselves, undermining efforts to explain their actions in terms of mental states like beliefs and intentions. Writing the Mind dives into these unintelligible moments to map the weaknesses of Theory of Mind and explore alternative frameworks for interpreting behavior. Through readings of authors such as Charles Brockden Brown, Herman Melville, Martin Delany, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, and Mark Twain, Hannah Walser explains how experimental models of cognition lead to some of the strangest formal features of canonical American texts. These authors' attempts to found social life on something other than mental states not only invite us to revise our assumptions about the centrality of mind reading and empathy to the novel as a form; they can also help us understand more contemporary concepts in social cognition, including gaslighting and learned helplessness, with more conceptual rigor and historical depth.
In this elegant and personal new work, Michael P. Steinberg reflects on the story of Moses and the Exodus as a foundational myth of politics—of the formation not of a nation but of a political community grounded in universal law. Modern renderings of the story of Moses, from Michelangelo to Spinoza to Freud to Schoenberg to Derrida, have seized on the story's ambivalences, its critical and self-critical power. These literal returns form the first level of the afterlife of Moses. They spin a persistent critical and self-critical thread of European and transatlantic art and argument. And they enable the second strand of Steinberg's argument, namely the depersonalization of the Moses and Exodus story, its evolving abstraction and modulation into a varied modern history of political beginnings. Beginnings, as distinct from origins, are human and historical, writes Steinberg. Political constitutions, as a form of beginning, imply the eventuality of their own renewals and their own reconstitutions. Motivated in part by recent reactionary insurgencies in the US, Europe, and Israel, this astute work of intellectual history posits the critique of myths of origin as a key principle of democratic government, affect, and citizenship, of their endurance as well as their fragility.
What does it mean to look? How does looking relate to damage? These are the fundamental questions addressed in Overlooking Damage. From the Roman triumph to the iconoclasm of ISIS and the Taliban to the aerial views of looted landscapes and destroyed temples visible on Google, the relationship between beauty and violence is far more intimate than we sometimes acknowledge. Jonah Siegel makes the daring argument that a thoughtful reaction to images of damage need not stop at melancholy, but can lead us to a new reckoning. Would the objects we admire be more beautiful if they were not injured or displaced, if they did not remind us of unbearable violence? Siegel takes up writers from the time of the French Revolution to today who have reacted to the depredations of revolutionary iconoclasm, imperial looting, and industrial capitalism, and proposes that in these authors we may find resources with which to navigate our contemporary situation. Deftly bringing the methods of literary studies to bear on important debates in the study of heritage, archaeology, and visual culture, Overlooking Damage reflects on the ways in which concepts of beauty intersect with periods of epochal violence in an attempt to resist the separation of broken things from the worlds in which they have come to be embedded.
Critics have long understood the development of Romantic aesthetics as a turning point in the history of literary theory, a turn that is responsible for theories of mind and body that continue to inform our understandings of subjectivity and embodiment today. Yet the question of what aesthetic experience can "do" grates against the fact that much Romantic writing represents subjects as not actually in charge of the feelings they feel, the dreams they dream, or the actions they take. In response to this dilemma, Poetic Form and Romantic Provocation argues that being moved contrary to one's will is itself an aesthetic phenomenon explored by Romantic poets whose experiments with poetic form and genre provoke unanticipated feelings through verse. By analyzing how Romantic poets intervene, affectively and aesthetically, in readerly expectations of form and genre, Mathes shows how provocations disrupt and invite, disturb and compel—interrupting or suspending or retreating in ways that ask readers to orient themselves, materially and socially, in relation to literary experiences that are at once virtual and embodied. Examining the formal tactics of Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, alongside their reactions to historical events such as Toussaint Louverture's revolt and the Peterloo Massacre, Mathes reveals that an aesthetics of radical openness is central to the development of literary theory and criticism in Romantic Britain.
The November 1970 coup that brought Hafiz al-Asad to power fundamentally transformed cultural production in Syria. A comprehensive intellectual, ideological, and political project—a Ba'thist cultural revolution—sought to align artistic endeavors with the ideological interests of the regime. The ensuing agonistic struggle pitted official aesthetics of power against alternative modes of creative expression that could evade or ignore the effects of the state. With this book, Max Weiss offers the first cultural and intellectual history of Ba'thist Syria, from the coming to power of Hafiz al-Asad, through the transitional period under Bashar al-Asad, and continuing up through the Syria War. Revolutions Aesthetic reconceptualizes contemporary Syrian politics, authoritarianism, and cultural life. Engaging rich original sources—novels, films, and cultural periodicals—Weiss highlights themes crucial to the making of contemporary Syria: heroism and leadership, gender and power, comedy and ideology, surveillance and the senses, witnessing and temporality, and death and the imagination. Revolutions Aesthetic places front and center the struggle around aesthetic ideology that has been key to the constitution of state, society, and culture in Syria over the course of the past fifty years.
How does Martin Luther King, Jr., understand race philosophically and how did this understanding lead him to develop an ontological conception of racist police violence? In this important new work, Mark Christian Thompson attempts to answer these questions, examining ontology in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy. Specifically, the book reads King through 1920s German academic debates between Martin Heidegger, Rudolf Bultmann, Hans Jonas, Carl Schmitt, Eric Voegelin, Hannah Arendt, and others on Being, gnosticism, existentialism, political theology, and sovereignty. It further examines King's dissertation about Tillich, as well other key texts from his speculative writings, sermons, and speeches, positing King's understanding of divine love as a form of Heideggerian ontology articulated in beloved community. Tracking the presence of twentieth-century German philosophy and theology in his thought, the book situates King's ontology conceptually and socially in nonviolent protest. In so doing, The Critique of Nonviolence reads King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963) with Walter Benjamin's "Critique of Violence" (1921) to reveal the depth of King's political-theological critique of police violence as the illegitimate appropriation of the racialized state of exception. As Thompson argues, it is in part through its appropriation of German philosophy and theology that King's ontology condemns the perpetual American state of racial exception that permits unlimited police violence against Black lives.
With this incisive work, Palmer Rampell reveals the surprising role genre fiction played in redefining the category of the private person in the postwar period. Especially after the Supreme Court established a constitutional right to privacy in 1965, legal scholars, judges, and the public scrambled to understand the scope of that right. Before and after the Court's ruling, authors of genre fiction and film reformulated their aliens, androids, and monsters to engage in debates about personal privacy as it pertained to issues like abortion, police surveillance, and euthanasia. Triangulating novels and films with original archival discoveries and historical and legal research, Rampell provides new readings of Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy B. Hughes, Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, Chester Himes, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, and others. The book pairs the right of privacy for heterosexual sex with queer and proto-feminist crime fiction; racialized police surveillance at midcentury with Black crime fiction; Roe v. Wade (1973) with 1960s and 1970s science fiction; the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (1974) with horror; and the right to die with westerns. While we are accustomed to defenses of fiction for its capacity to represent fully rendered private life, Rampell suggests that we might value a certain strand of genre fiction for its capacity to theorize the meaning of the protean concept of privacy.
An accessible introduction to Badiou's key ideas In this short and accessible book, the French philosopher Alain Badiou provides readers with a unique introduction to his system of thought, summed up in the trilogy of Being and Event, Logics of Worlds, and The Immanence of Truths. Taking the form of an interview and two talks and keeping in mind a broad audience without any prior knowledge of his work, the book touches upon the central concepts and major preoccupations of Badiou's philosophy: fundamental ontology, mathematics, politics, poetry, and love. Well-chosen examples illuminate his thinking in regards to being and universality, worlds and singularity, and the infinite and the absolute, among other topics. A veritable tour de force of pedagogical clarity, this new student-friendly work is perhaps the single best general introduction to the work of this prolific and committed thinker. If, for Badiou, the task of philosophy consists in thinking through the truths of our time, the texts collected in this small volume could not be timelier.
As the US becomes a second-place nation, can it shed the superpower nostalgia that still haunts the UK? The debate over the US's fading hegemony has raged and sputtered for 50 years, glutting the market with prophecies about American decline. Media experts ask how fast we will fall and how much we will lose, but generally ignore the fundamental question: What does decline mean? What is the significance, in experiential and everyday terms, in feelings and fantasies, of living in a country past its prime? Drawing on the example of post-WWII Britain and looking ahead at 2020s America, Jed Esty suggests that becoming a second-place nation is neither disastrous, as alarmists claim, nor avoidable, as optimists insist. Contemporary declinism often masks white nostalgia and perpetuates a conservative longing for Cold War certainty. But the narcissistic lure of "lost greatness" appeals across the political spectrum. As Esty argues, it resonates so widely in mainstream media because Americans have lost access to a language of national purpose beyond global supremacy. It is time to shelve the shopworn fables of endless US dominance, to face the multipolar world of the future, and to tell new American stories. The Future of Decline is a guide to finding them.
Why does it seem like our everyday life is shadowed by something menacing? This book identifies and illuminates paranoia as a significant feature of contemporary American society and culture. Centering on what it identifies as three key dimensions – power, truth, and identity – in three different contexts – society, literature, and critique – the book explores and explains the increasing influence of paranoid thinking in American society during the second half of the twentieth century and first decades of the twenty-first, a period that has seen the rise of control systems and neoliberal ascendency. Inquiring about the predominance of white, male, American subjects in paranoid culture, Frida Beckman recognizes the antagonistic maintenance and fortification of a conception of the autonomous individual that perceives itself to be under threat. Identifying such paranoia as emerging from an increasingly disjunctive relation between this conception of the subject and the changing nature of the public sphere, she develops the concept of the paranoid chronotope as a tool for the theoretical analysis of social, literary, and critical practices today. Investigating twenty-first century paranoid fictions, New Sincerity novels, conspiracist online culture, and postcritique, Beckman shows how the paranoid chronotope constitutes a recurring feature of modern consciousness.
A series of intellectual provocations that investigate the creative process across the human-nonhuman spectrum. Is it possible that creative artists have more in common with machines than we might think? Employing an improvisational call-and-response writing performance coauthored with an AI text generator, remix artist and scholar Mark Amerika, interrogates how his own "psychic automatism" is itself a nonhuman function strategically designed to reveal the poetic attributes of programmable worlds still unimagined. Through a series of intellectual provocations that investigate the creative process across the human-nonhuman spectrum, Amerika critically reflects on whether creativity itself is, at root, a nonhuman information behavior that emerges from an onto-operational presence experiencing an otherworldly aesthetic sensibility. Amerika engages with his cyberpunk imagination to simultaneously embrace and problematize human-machine collaborations. He draws from jazz performance, beatnik poetry, Buddhist thought, and surrealism to suggest that his own artificial creative intelligence operates as a finely tuned remix engine continuously training itself to build on the history of avant-garde art and writing. Playful and provocative, My Life as an Artificial Creative Intelligence flips the script on contemporary AI research that attempts to build systems that perform more like humans, instead self-reflexively making a very nontraditional argument about AI's impact on society and its relationship to the cosmos.
Assessing the dawn of the Anthropocene era, a poet and philosopher asks: How do we live at the end of the world? The end of the Holocene era is marked not just by melting glaciers or epic droughts, but by the near universal disappearance of shared social enterprise: the ruling class builds walls and lunar shuttles, while the rest of us contend with the atrophy of institutional integrity and the utter abdication of providing even minimal shelter from looming disaster. The irony of the Anthropocene era is that, in a neoliberal culture of the self, it is forcing us to consider ourselves as a collective again. For those of us who are not wealthy enough to start a colony on Mars or isolate ourselves from the world, the Anthropocene ends the fantasy of sheer individualism and worldlessness once and for all. It introduces a profound sense of time and events after the so-called "end of history" and an entirely new approach to solidarity. How to Live at the End of the World is a hopeful exploration of how we might inherit the name "Anthropocene," renarrate it, and revise our way of life or thought in view of it. In his book on time, art, and politics in an era of escalating climate change, Holloway takes up difficult, unanswered questions in recent work by Donna Haraway, Kathryn Yusoff, Bruno Latour, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Isabelle Stengers, sketching a path toward a radical form of democracy—a zoocracy, or, a rule of all of the living.
Are we unique as individuals, or are we replaceable? Seventeenth-century English literature pursues these questions through depictions of marriage. The writings studied in this book elevate a love between two individuals who deem each other to be unique to the point of being irreplaceable, and this vocabulary allows writers to put affective pressure on the meaning of marriage as Pauline theology defines it. Stubbornly individual, love threatens to short-circuit marriage's function in directing intimate feelings toward a communal experience of Christ's love. The literary project of testing the meaning of marriage proved to be urgent work throughout the seventeenth century. Monarchy itself was put on trial in this century, and so was the usefulness of marriage in linking Christian belief with the legitimacy of hereditary succession. Starting at the end of the sixteenth century with Edmund Spenser, and then exploring works by William Shakespeare, William Davenant, John Milton, Lucy Hutchinson, and Aphra Behn, Eric Song offers a new account of how notions of unique personhood became embedded in a literary way of thinking and feeling about marriage.
With this profound final work, completed in the days leading up to his death, Michel Serres presents a vivid picture of his thinking about religion—a constant preoccupation since childhood—thereby completing Le Grand Récit, the comprehensive explanation of the world and of humanity to which he devoted the last twenty years of his life. Themes from Serres's earlier writings—energy and information, the role of the media in modern society, the anthropological function of sacrifice, the role of scientific knowledge, the problem of evil—are reinterpreted here in the light of the Old Testament accounts of Isaac and Jonah and a variety of Gospel episodes, including the Three Wise Men of the Epiphany, the Transfiguration, Peter's denying Christ, the Crucifixion, Emmaus, and the Pentecost. Monotheistic religion, Serres argues, resembles mathematical abstraction in its dazzling power to bring together the real and the virtual, the natural and the transcendent; but only in its Christian embodiment is it capable of binding together human beings in such a way that partisan attachments are dissolved and a new era of history, free for once of the lethal repetition of collective violence, can be entered into.
Medieval books that survive today have been through a lot: singed by fire, mottled by mold, eaten by insects, annotated by readers, cut into fragments, or damaged through well-intentioned preservation efforts. In this book, Michelle Warren tells the story of one such manuscript—an Arthurian romance with textual origins in twelfth-century England now diffused across the twenty-first century internet. This trajectory has been propelled by a succession of technologies—from paper manufacture to printing to computers. Together, they have made literary history itself a cultural technology indebted to colonial capitalism. Bringing to bear media theory, medieval literary studies, and book history, Warren shows how digital infrastructures change texts and books, even very old ones. In the process, she uncovers a practice of "tech medievalism" that weaves through the history of computing since the mid-twentieth century; metaphors indebted to King Arthur and the Holy Grail are integral to some of the technologies that now sustain medieval books on the internet. This infrastructural approach to book history illuminates how the meaning of literature is made by many people besides canonical authors: translators, scribes, patrons, readers, collectors, librarians, cataloguers, editors, photographers, software programmers, and many more. Situated at the intersections of the digital humanities, library sciences, literary history, and book history, Holy Digital Grail offers new ways to conceptualize authorship, canon formation, and the definition of a "book."
From medieval contemplation to the early modern cosmopoetic imagination, to the invention of aesthetic experience, to nineteenth-century decadent literature, and to early-twentieth century essayistic forms of writing and film, Niklaus Largier shows that mystical practices have been reinvented across the centuries, generating a notion of possibility with unexpected critical potential. Arguing for a new understanding of mystical experience, Largier foregrounds the ways in which devotion builds on experimental practices of figuration in order to shape perception, emotions, and thoughts anew. Largier illuminates how devotional practices are invested in the creation of possibilities, and this investment has been a key element in a wide range of experimental engagements in literature and art from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, and most recently in forms of "new materialism." Read as a history of the senses and emotions, the book argues that mystical and devotional practices have long been invested in the modulating and reconfiguring of sensation, affects, and thoughts. Read as a book about practices of figuration, it questions ordinary protocols of interpretation in the humanities, and the priority given to a hermeneutic understanding of texts and cultural artifacts.
How Americans learned to wait on time for racial change What if, Joseph Darda asks, our desire to solve racism—with science, civil rights, antiracist literature, integration, and color blindness—has entrenched it further? In The Strange Career of Racial Liberalism, he traces the rise of liberal antiracism, showing how reformers' faith in time, in the moral arc of the universe, has undercut future movements with the insistence that racism constitutes a time-limited crisis to be solved with time-limited remedies. Most historians attribute the shortcomings of the civil rights era to a conservative backlash or to the fracturing of the liberal establishment in the late 1960s, but the civil rights movement also faced resistance from a liberal "frontlash," from antiredistributive allies who, before it ever took off, constrained what the movement could demand and how it could demand it. Telling the stories of Ruth Benedict, Kenneth Clark, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Howard Griffin, Pauli Murray, Lillian Smith, Richard Wright, and others, Darda reveals how Americans learned to wait on time for racial change and the enduring harm of that trust in the clock.
With this nuanced and interdisciplinary work, political theorist Mihaela Mihai tackles several interrelated questions: How do societies remember histories of systemic violence? Who is excluded from such histories' cast of characters? And what are the political costs of selective remembering in the present? Building on insights from political theory, social epistemology, and feminist and critical race theory, Mihai argues that a double erasure often structures hegemonic narratives of complex violence: of widespread, heterogeneous complicity and of "impure" resistances, not easily subsumed to exceptionalist heroic models. In dialogue with care ethicists and philosophers of art, she then suggests that such narrative reductionism can be disrupted aesthetically through practices of "mnemonic care," that is, through the hermeneutical labor that critical artists deliver—thematically and formally—within communities' space of meaning. Empirically, the book examines both consecrated and marginalized artists who tackled the memory of Vichy France, communist Romania, and apartheid South Africa. Despite their specificities, these contexts present us with an opportunity to analyze similar mnemonic dynamics and to recognize the political impact of dissenting artistic production. Crossing disciplinary boundaries, the book intervenes in debates over collective responsibility, historical injustice, and the aesthetics of violence within political theory, memory studies, social epistemology, and transitional justice.
With Reading the Obscene, Jordan Carroll reveals new insights about the editors who fought the most famous anti-censorship battles of the twentieth century. While many critics have interpreted obscenity as a form of populist protest, Reading the Obscene shows that the editors who worked to dismantle censorship often catered to elite audiences composed primarily of white men in the professional-managerial class. As Carroll argues, transgressive editors, such as H. L. Mencken at the Smart Set and the American Mercury, William Gaines and Al Feldstein at EC Comics, Hugh Hefner at Playboy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Books, and Barney Rosset at Grove Press, taught their readers to approach even the most scandalizing texts with the same cold calculation and professional reserve they employed in their occupations. Along the way, these editors kicked off a middle-class sexual revolution in which white-collar professionals imagined they could control sexuality through management science. Obscenity is often presented as self-shattering and subversive, but with this provocative work Carroll calls into question some of the most sensational claims about obscenity, suggesting that when transgression becomes a sign of class distinction, we must abandon the idea that obscenity always overturns hierarchies and disrupts social order.
Contingency is not just a feature of modern politics, finance, and culture—by thinking contingently, nineteenth-century Britons rewrote familiar narratives and upended forgone conclusions. Victorian Contingencies shows how scientists, novelists, and consumers engaged in new formal and material experiments with cause and effect, past and present, that actively undermined routine certainties. Tina Young Choi traces contingency across a wide range of materials and media, from newspaper advertisements and children's stories to well-known novels, scientific discoveries, technological innovations. She shows how Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin reinvented geological and natural histories as spaces for temporal and causal experimentation, while the nascent insurance industry influenced Charles Babbage's computational designs for a machine capable of responding to a contingent future. Choi pairs novelists George Eliot and Lewis Carroll with physicist James Clerk Maxwell, demonstrating how they introduced possibility and probability into once-assured literary and scientific narratives. And she explores the popular board games and pre-cinematic visual entertainments that encouraged Victorians to navigate a world made newly uncertain. By locating contingency within these cultural contexts, this book invites a deep and multidisciplinary reassessment of the longer histories of causality, closure, and chance.
In this expansive and provocative new work, Michael Dango theorizes how aesthetic style manages crisis—and why taking crisis seriously means taking aesthetics seriously. Detoxing, filtering, bingeing, and ghosting: these are four actions that have come to define how people deal with the stress of living in a world that seems in permanent crisis. As Dango argues, they can also be used to describe contemporary art and literature. Employing what he calls "promiscuous archives," Dango traverses media and re-shuffles literary and art historical genealogies to make his case. The book discusses social media filters alongside the minimalism of Donald Judd and La Monte Young and the television shows The West Wing and True Detective. It reflects on the modernist cuisine of Ferran Adrià and the fashion design of Issey Miyake. And, it dissects writing by Barbara Browning, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Mark Danielewski, Jennifer Egan, Tao Lin, David Mitchell, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Robison, and Zadie Smith. Unpacking how the styles of these works detox, filter, binge, or ghost their worlds, Crisis Style is at once a taxonomy of contemporary cultural production and a theorization of action in a world always in need of repair. Ultimately, Dango presents a compelling argument for why we need aesthetic theory to understand what we're doing in our world today.
In this rich intellectual history of the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's Talmudic lectures in Paris, Ethan Kleinberg addresses Levinas's Jewish life and its relation to his philosophical writings while making an argument for the role and importance of Levinas's Talmudic lessons. Pairing each chapter with a related Talmudic lecture, Kleinberg uses the distinction Levinas presents between "God on Our Side" and "God on God's Side" to provide two discrete and at times conflicting approaches to Levinas's Talmudic readings. One is historically situated and argued from "our side" while the other uses Levinas's Talmudic readings themselves to approach the issues as timeless and derived from "God on God's own side." Bringing the two approaches together, Kleinberg asks whether the ethical message and moral urgency of Levinas's Talmudic lectures can be extended beyond the texts and beliefs of a chosen people, religion, or even the seemingly primary unit of the self. Touching on Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition, Kleinberg provides readers with a boundary-pushing investigation into the origins, influences, and causes of Levinas's turn to and use of Talmud.
Against the backdrop of ever-increasing nationalist violence during the last decade of the twentieth century, this book challenges standard analyses of nation formation by elaborating on the nation's dream-like hold over the modern social imagination. Stathis Gourgouris argues that the national fantasy lies at the core of the Enlightenment imaginary, embodying its central paradox: the intertwining of anthropological universality with the primacy of a cultural ideal. Crucial to the operation of this paradox and fundamental in its ambiguity is the figure of Greece, the universal alibi and cultural predicate behind national-cultural consolidation throughout colonialist Europe. The largely unpredictable institution of a modern Greek nation in 1830 undoes the interweaving of Enlightenment and Philhellenism, whose centrifugal strands continue to unravel the certainty of European history, down to the internal predicaments of the European Union or the tragedy of the Balkan conflicts. This 25th Anniversary edition of the book includes a new preface by the author in which he situates the book's original insights in retrospect against the newer developments in the social and political conditions of a now globalized world: the neocolonial resurgence of nationalism and racism, the failure of social democratic institutions, the crisis of sovereignty and citizenship, and the brutal conditions of stateless peoples.
In Networking Print in Shakespeare's England, Blaine Greteman uses new analytical tools to examine early English print networks and the systemic changes that reshaped early modern literature, thought, and politics. In early modern England, printed books were a technology that connected people—not only readers and writers, but an increasingly expansive community of printers, publishers, and booksellers—in new ways. By pairing the methods of network analysis with newly available digital archives, Greteman aims to change the way we usually talk about authorship, publication, and print. As Greteman reveals, network analysis of the nearly 500,000 books printed in England before 1800 makes it possible to speak once again of a "print revolution," identifying a sudden tipping point at which the early modern print network became a small world where information could spread in new and powerful ways. Along with providing new insights into canonical literary figures like Milton and Shakespeare, data analysis also uncovers the hidden histories of key figures in this transformation who have been virtually ignored. Both a primer on the power of network analysis and a critical intervention in early modern studies, the book is ultimately an extended meditation on agency and the complexity of action in context.
There is a tendency to think of Korean American literature—and Asian American literature writ large—as a field of study involving only two spaces, the United States and Korea, with the same being true in Asian studies of Korean Japanese (Zainichi) literature involving only Japan and Korea. This book posits that both fields have to account for three spaces: Korean American literature has to grapple with the legacy of Japanese imperialism in the United States, and Zainichi literature must account for American interventions in Japan. Comparing Korean American authors such as Younghill Kang, Chang-rae Lee, Ronyoung Kim, and Min Jin Lee with Zainichi authors such as Kaneshiro Kazuki, Yi Yang-ji, and Kim Masumi, Minor Transpacific uncovers their hidden dialogue and imperial concordances, revealing the trajectory and impact of both bodies of work. Minor Transpacific bridges the fields of Asian studies and Asian American studies to unveil new connections between Zainichi and Korean American literatures. Working in Japanese and English, David S. Roh builds a theoretical framework for articulating those moments of contact between minority literatures in a third national space and proposes a new way of conceptualizing Asian American literature.
Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish writers and artists across Europe began depicting fellow Jews as savages or "primitive" tribesmen. Primitivism—the European appreciation of and fascination with so-called "primitive," non-Western peoples who were also subjugated and denigrated—was a powerful artistic critique of the modern world and was adopted by Jewish writers and artists to explore the urgent questions surrounding their own identity and status in Europe as insiders and outsiders. Jewish primitivism found expression in a variety of forms in Yiddish, Hebrew, and German literature, photography, and graphic art, including in the work of figures such as Franz Kafka, Y.L. Peretz, S. An-sky, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Else Lasker-Schüler, and Moï Ver. In Jewish Primitivism, Samuel J. Spinner argues that these and other Jewish modernists developed a distinct primitivist aesthetic that, by locating the savage present within Europe, challenged the idea of the threatening savage other from outside Europe on which much primitivism relied: in Jewish primitivism, the savage is already there. This book offers a new assessment of modern Jewish art and literature and shows how Jewish primitivism troubles the boundary between observer and observed, cultured and "primitive," colonizer and colonized.
Marking the centenary of Walter Benjamin's immensely influential essay, "Toward the Critique of Violence," this critical edition presents readers with an altogether new, fully annotated translation of a work that is widely recognized as a classic of modern political theory. The volume includes twenty-one notes and fragments by Benjamin along with passages from all of the contemporaneous texts to which his essay refers. Readers thus encounter for the first time in English provocative arguments about law and violence advanced by Hermann Cohen, Kurt Hiller, Erich Unger, and Emil Lederer. A new translation of selections from Georges Sorel's Reflections on Violence further illuminates Benjamin's critical program. The volume also includes, for the first time in any language, a bibliography Benjamin drafted for the expansion of the essay and the development of a corresponding philosophy of law. An extensive introduction and afterword provide additional context. With its challenging argument concerning violence, law, and justice—which addresses such topical matters as police violence, the death penalty, and the ambiguous force of religion—Benjamin's work is as important today as it was upon its publication in Weimar Germany a century ago.
Notework begins with a striking insight: the writer's notebook is a genre in itself. Simon Reader pursues this argument in original readings of unpublished writing by prominent Victorians, offering an expansive approach to literary formalism for the twenty-first century. Neither drafts nor diaries, the notes of Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Vernon Lee, and George Gissing record ephemeral and nonlinear experiences, revealing each author's desire to leave their fragments scattered and unused. Presenting notes in terms of genre allows Reader to suggest inventive new accounts of key Victorian texts, including The Picture of Dorian Gray, On the Origin of Species, and Hopkins's devotional lyrics, and to reinterpret these works as meditations on the ethics of compiling and using data. In this way, Notework recasts information collection as a personal and expressive activity that comes into focus against large-scale systems of knowledge organization. Finding resonance between today's digital culture and its nineteenth-century precursors, Reader honors our most disposable, improvised, and fleeting written gestures.
Uncle Tom charts the dramatic cultural transformation of perhaps the most controversial literary character in American history. From his origins as the heroic, Christ-like protagonist of Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel, the best-selling book of the nineteenth century after the Bible, Uncle Tom has become a widely recognized epithet for a black person deemed so subservient to whites that he betrays his race. Readers have long noted that Stowe's character is not the traitorous sycophant that his name connotes today. Adena Spingarn traces his evolution in the American imagination, offering the first comprehensive account of a figure central to American conversations about race and racial representation from 1852 to the present. We learn of the radical political potential of the novel's many theatrical spinoffs even in the Jim Crow era, Uncle Tom's breezy disavowal by prominent voices of the Harlem Renaissance, and a developing critique of "Uncle Tom roles" in Hollywood. Within the stubborn American binary of black and white, citizens have used this rhetorical figure to debate the boundaries of racial difference and the legacy of slavery. Through Uncle Tom, black Americans have disputed various strategies for racial progress and defined the most desirable and harmful images of black personhood in literature and popular culture.
An accessible introduction to cultural theory and an original polemic about the purpose of criticism. What is criticism for? Over the past few decades, impassioned disagreements over that question in the academy have burst into the news media. These conflicts have renewed the culture wars over the legacy of the 1960s, becoming entangled in national politics and leading to a new set of questions about critics and the power they do or don't wield. Re-examining theorists from Matthew Arnold to Walter Benjamin, to Frederic Jameson, Stuart Hall, and Hortense Spillers, Criticism and Politics explores the animating contradictions that have long propelled literary studies: between pronouncing judgment and engaging in philosophical critique, between democracy and expertise, between political commitment and aesthetic autonomy. Both a leftist critic and a critic of the left, Robbins unflinchingly defends criticism from those who might wish to de-politicize it, arguing that working for change is not optional for critics, but rather a core part of their job description.