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What is critique? How is it used and abused? At a moment when popular discourse is saturated with voices confronting each other about not being critical enough, while academic discourses proclaim to have moved past critique, this provocative book reawakens the foundational question of what 'critique' is in the first place. Roy Ben-Shai inspects critique as an orientation of critical thinking, probing its structures and assumptions, its limits and its risks, its history and its possibilities. The book is a journey through a landscape of ideas, images, and texts from diverse sources—theological, psychological, etymological, and artistic, but mainly across the history of philosophy, from Plato and Saint Augustine, through Kant and Hegel, Marx and Heidegger, up to contemporary critical theory. Along the way, Ben-Shai invites the reader to examine their own orientation of thought, even at the moment of reading the book; to question popular discourse; and to revisit the philosophical canon, revealing affinities among often antagonistic traditions, such as Catholicism and Marxism. Most importantly, Critique of Critique sets the ground for an examination of alternative orientations of critical thinking, other ways of inhabiting and grasping the world.
An intelligent machine built to study methods of social warfare struggles to understand and communicate the lived experience of race In a narrative full of social significance and poetically decorated with monks, vampires, and mythical statistics, Race in the Machine presents a world where the stories we use to explain race all simultaneously exist, within and around us, dictating our interactions and innermost beliefs. The nameless protagonist, an enigmatic social mechanic at Nearbay Institute, living in a population of socially connected intelligent machines, encounters a simple query in the context of an introductory lecture: "What exactly is race? And what is it in the context of the social machine?" This prompt guides the protagonist along a twisting intellectual tale surrounding a series of experiments which explore: How many racists does it take to create systems of inequality? What role do non-racists actors play in upholding them? How is bias learned? How does it spread? The narrator develops a distinct understanding of race through the figurative bending of time, dreams of a "race code" and by confronting a series of mysterious communications that remain just outside comprehension. Over the course of this journey, the answers to important questions about racial inequality quietly emerge for the protagonist. Scholarly encounters with both antagonistic colleagues and unexpected allies, culminate when the hero is forced to reach a devastating conclusion about themself and the world. Stirring and luminous, Race in the Machine deftly oscillates between the allegorically simplified and the impossibly complex to weave an utterly unique and nuanced portrait of race in the modern world.
For Herman Melville, the instability of democracy held tremendous creative potential. Examining the centrality of political thought to Melville's oeuvre, Jennifer Greiman argues that Melville's densely figurative aesthetics give form to a radical reimagining of democratic foundations, relations, and ways of being—modeling how we can think democracy in political theory today. Across Melville's five decades of writing, from his early Pacific novels to his late poetry, Greiman identifies a literary formalism that is radically political and carries the project of democratic theory in new directions. Recovering Melville's readings in political philosophy and aesthetics, Greiman shows how he engaged with key problems in political theory—the paradox of foundations, the vicious circles of sovereign power, the fragility of the people—to produce a body of radical democratic art and thought. Scenes of green and growing life, circular structures, and images of a groundless world emerge as forms for understanding democracy as a collective project in flux. In Melville's experimental aesthetics, Greiman finds a significant precursor to the tradition of radical democratic theory in the US and France that emphasizes transience and creativity over the foundations and forms prized by liberalism. Such politics, she argues, are necessarily aesthetic: attuned to material and sensible distinctions, open to new forces of creativity.
This is the fantastical, yet real, story of the merchants of Bethlehem, the young men who traveled to every corner of the globe in the nineteenth century. These men set off on the backs of donkeys with suitcases full of crosses and rosaries, to return via steamship with suitcases stuffed with French francs, Philippine pesos, or Salvadoran colones. They returned with news of mysterious lands and strange inventions—clocks, trains, and other devices that both befuddled and bewitched the Bethlehemites. With newfound wealth, these merchants built shimmering pink mansions that transformed Bethlehem from a rural village into Palestine's wealthiest and most cosmopolitan town. At the center of these extraordinary occurrences lived Jubrail Dabdoub. The Lives and Deaths of Jubrail Dabdoub tells the story of Jubrail's encounters, offering a version of Palestinian history rarely acknowledged. From his childhood in rural Bethlehem to later voyages across Europe, East Asia, and the Americas, Jubrail's story culminates in a recorded miracle: in 1909, he was brought back from the dead. To tell such a tale is to delve into the realms of the fantastic and improbable. Through the story of Jubrail's life, Jacob Norris explores the porous lines between history and fiction, the normal and the paranormal, the everyday and the extraordinary. Drawing on aspects of magical realism combined with elements of Palestinian folklore, Norris recovers the atmosphere of late nineteenth-century Bethlehem: a mood of excitement, disorientation, and wonder as the town was thrust into a new era. As the book offers an original approach to historical writing, it captures a fantastic story of global encounter and exchange.
An incisive demonstration of how Orwell's body of work was defined by the four major conflicts that punctuated his life: World War I, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Cold War. Few English writers wielded a pen so sharply as George Orwell, the quintessential political writer of the twentieth century. His literary output at once responded to and sought to influence the tumultuous times in which he lived—decades during which Europe and eventually the entire world would be torn apart by war, while ideologies like fascism, socialism, and communism changed the stakes of global politics. In this study, Stanford historian and lifelong Orwell scholar Peter Stansky incisively demonstrates how Orwell's body of work was defined by the four major conflicts that punctuated his life: World War I, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Cold War. Young Orwell came of age against the backdrop of the First World War, and published his final book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, nearly half a century later, at the outset of the Cold War. The intervening three decades of Orwell's life were marked by radical shifts in his personal politics: briefly a staunch pacifist, he was finally a fully committed socialist following his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. But just before the outbreak of World War II, he had adopted a strong anti-pacifist position, stating that to be a pacifist was equivalent to being pro-Fascist. By carefully combing through Orwell's published works, notably "My Country Right or Left," The Lion and the Unicorn, Animal Farm, and his most dystopian and prescient novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Stansky teases apart Orwell's often paradoxical views on patriotism and socialism. The Socialist Patriot is ultimately an attempt to reconcile the apparent contradictions between Orwell's commitment to socialist ideals and his sharp critique of totalitarianism by demonstrating the centrality of his wartime experiences, giving twenty-first century readers greater insight into the inner world of one of the most influential writers of the modern age.
Written on the threshold of Thus Spoke Zarathustra during a high point of social, intellectual and psychic vibrancy, The Joyful Science (frequently translated as The Gay Science) is one of Nietzsche's thematically tighter books. Here he debuts and practices the art of amor fati, love of fate, to explore what is "species preserving" in relation to happiness (Book One); inspiration and the role of art as they keep us mentally fit for inhabiting a world dominated by science (Book Two); the challenges of living authentically and overcoming after the death of God (Book Three); and the crescendo of life affirmation in which Nietzsche revealed the doctrine of eternal recurrence and previewed the figure of Zarathustra (Book Four). Invigorated and motivated by Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche in 1887 added a new preface, an appendix of poems, and Book Five, where he deepened the critique of science and displayed a more genealogical approach. This volume provides the first English translation of the Idylls from Messina and, more importantly, it includes the first English translation of the notebooks of 1881–1882, in which Nietzsche first formulated the eternal recurrence. Structurally and stylistically, The Joyful Science remains Nietzsche's most effective book of aphorisms, immediately after which he took on the voice and alter ego of Zarathustra in order to push beyond the boundaries of even the most liberating prose.
For working-class life writers in nineteenth century Britain, happiness was a multifaceted emotion: a concept that could describe experiences of hedonic pleasure, foster and deepen social relationships, drive individuals to self-improvement, and lead them to look back over their lives and evaluate whether they were well-lived. However, not all working-class autobiographers shared the same concepts or valorizations of happiness, as variables such as geography, gender, political affiliation, and social and economic mobility often influenced the way they defined and experienced their emotional lives. The Happiness of the British Working Class employs and analyzes over 350 autobiographies of individuals in England, Scotland, and Ireland to explore the sources of happiness of British working people born before 1870. Drawing from careful examinations of their personal narratives, Jamie L. Bronstein investigates the ways in which working people thought about the good life as seen through their experiences with family and friends, rewarding work, interaction with the natural world, science and creativity, political causes and religious commitments, and physical and economic struggles. Informed by the history of emotions and the philosophical and social-scientific literature on happiness, this book reflects broadly on the industrial-era working-class experience in an era of immense social and economic change.
Concentrating on W. H. Auden's work from the late 1930s, when he seeks to understand the poet's responsibility in the face of a triumphant fascism, to the late 1950s, when he discerns an irreconcilable "divorce" between poetry and history in light of industrialized murder, this startling new study reveals the intensity of the poet's struggles with the meanings of history. Through meticulous readings, significant archival findings, and critical reflection, Susannah Young-ah Gottlieb presents a new image and understanding of Auden's achievement and reveals how his version of modernism illuminates urgent contemporary issues and theoretical paradigms: from the meaning of marriage equality to the persistence of fascism; from critical theory to psychoanalysis; from precarity to postcolonial studies. "The muse does not like being forced to choose between Agit-prop and Mallarmé," Auden writes with characteristic lucidity, and this study elucidates the probity, humor, and technical skill with which his responses to historical reality in the mid-twentieth century illuminate our world today.
Communicology is Vilém Flusser's first thesis on his concepts of technical images and technical imagination. In this foundational text he lays the groundwork for later work, offering a philosophical approach to communication as a phenomenon that permeates every aspect of human existence. Clearly organized around questions such as "What is Communication?," "What are Codes?," and "What is Technical Imagination?," the work touches on theater, photography, film, television, and more. Originally written in 1978, but only posthumously published in German, the book is one of the clearest statements of Flusser's theory of communication as involving a variably mediated relation between humans and the world. Although Flusser was writing in the 1970s, his work demonstrates a prescience that makes it of significant contemporary interest to scholars in visual culture, art history, media studies, and philosophy.
What do we really mean when we call something "graphic"? In American Graphic, Rebecca Clark examines the "graphic" as a term tellingly at odds with itself. On the one hand, it seems to evoke the grotesque; on the other hand, it promises the geometrically streamlined in the form of graphs, diagrams, and user interfaces. Clark's innovation is to ask what happens when the same moment in a work of literature is graphic in both ways at once. Her answer suggests the graphic turn in contemporary literature is intimately implicated in the fraught dynamics of identification. As Clark reveals, this double graphic indexes the unseemliness of a lust—in our current culture of information—for cool epistemological mastery over the bodies of others. Clark analyzes the contemporary graphic along three specific axes: the ethnographic, the pornographic, and the infographic. In each chapter, Clark's explication of the double graphic reads a canonical author against literary, visual and/or performance works by Black and/or female creators. Pairing works by Edgar Allan Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, and Thomas Pynchon with pieces by Mat Johnson, Kara Walker, Fran Ross, Narcissister, and Teju Cole, Clark tests the effects and affects of the double graphic across racialized and gendered axes of differences. American Graphic forces us to face how closely and uncomfortably yoked together disgust and data have become in our increasingly graph-ick world.
The Romantic Rhetoric of Accumulation provides an account of the long arc of dispossession from the British Romantic period to today. Lenora Hanson glimpses histories of subsistence (such as reproductive labor, vagrancy and criminality, and unwaged labor) as figural ways of living that are superfluous—simultaneously more than enough to live and less than what is necessary for capitalism. Hanson treats rhetorical language as an archive of capital's accumulation through dispossession, in works by S.T. Coleridge, Edmund Burke, Mary Robinson, William Wordsworth, Benjamin Moseley, Joseph Priestley, and Alexander von Humboldt, as well as in contemporary film and critical theory. Reading riots through apostrophe, enclosure through anachronism, superstition and witchcraft through tautology, and the paradoxical coincidence of subsistence living with industrialization, Hanson shows the figural to be a material record of the survival of non-capitalist forms of life within capitalism. But this survival is not always-already resistant to capitalism, nor are the origins of capital accumulation confined to the Romantic past. Hanson reveals rhetorical figure as entwined in deeply ambivalent ways with the circuitous, ongoing process of dispossession. Reading both historically and rhetorically, Hanson argues that rhetorical language records histories of dispossession and the racialized, gendered distribution of the labor of subsistence. Romanticism, they show, is more contemporary than ever.
Medieval manuscripts are our shared inheritance, and today they are more accessible than ever—thanks to digital copies online. Yet for all that widespread digitization has fundamentally transformed how we connect with the medieval past, we understand very little about what these digital objects really are. We rarely consider how they are made or who makes them. This case study-rich book demystifies digitization, revealing what it's like to remake medieval books online and connecting modern digital manuscripts to their much longer media history, from print, to photography, to the rise of the internet. Examining classic late-1990s projects like Digital Scriptorium 1.0 alongside late-2010s initiatives like Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, and world-famous projects created by the British Library, Corpus Christi College Cambridge, Stanford University, and the Walters Art Museum against in-house digitizations performed in lesser-studied libraries, Whearty tells never-before-published narratives about globally important digital manuscript archives. Drawing together medieval literature, manuscript studies, digital humanities, and imaging sciences, Whearty shines a spotlight on the hidden expert labor responsible for today's revolutionary digital access to medieval culture. Ultimately, this book argues that centering the modern labor and laborers at the heart of digital cultural heritage fosters a more just and more rigorous future for medieval, manuscript, and media studies.
In this moment of climate precarity, Victorian studies scholar Barbara Leckie considers the climate crisis as a problem of time. Spanning the long nineteenth century through our current moment, her interdisciplinary treatment of climate change at once rethinks time and illustrates that the time for climate action is now. Climate Change, Interrupted argues that linear, progress-inflected temporalities are not adequate to a crisis that defies their terms. Instead, this book advances a theory and practice of interruption to rethink prevailing temporal frameworks. At the same time, it models the anachronistic, time-blending, and time-layering temporality it advances. In a series of experimental chapters informed by the unlikely trio of Walter Benjamin, Donna Haraway, and Virginia Woolf, Leckie reinflects and cowrites the traditions and knowledges of the long nineteenth century and the current period in the spirit of climate action collaboration. The current moment demands as many approaches as possible, invites us to take risks, and asks scholars and activists adept at storytelling to participate in the conversation. Climate Change, Interrupted, accordingly, invests in interruption to tell a different story of the climate crisis.
Across the humanities and social sciences, scholars increasingly use quantitative methods to study textual data. Considered together, this research represents an extraordinary event in the long history of textuality. More or less all at once, the corpus has emerged as a major genre of cultural and scientific knowledge. In Literary Mathematics, Michael Gavin grapples with this development, describing how quantitative methods for the study of textual data offer powerful tools for historical inquiry and sometimes unexpected perspectives on theoretical issues of concern to literary studies. Student-friendly and accessible, the book advances this argument through case studies drawn from the Early English Books Online corpus. Gavin shows how a copublication network of printers and authors reveals an uncannily accurate picture of historical periodization; that a vector-space semantic model parses historical concepts in incredibly fine detail; and that a geospatial analysis of early modern discourse offers a surprising panoramic glimpse into the period's notion of world geography. Across these case studies, Gavin challenges readers to consider why corpus-based methods work so effectively and asks whether the successes of formal modeling ought to inspire humanists to reconsider fundamental theoretical assumptions about textuality and meaning. As Gavin reveals, by embracing the expressive power of mathematics, scholars can add new dimensions to digital humanities research and find new connections with the social sciences.
This book is about a mad king and a mad duke. With original and iconoclastic readings, Richard van Oort pioneers the reading of Shakespeare as an ethical thinker of the "originary scene," the scene in which humans became conscious of themselves as symbol-using moral and narrative beings. Taking King Lear and Measure for Measure as case studies, van Oort shows how the minimal concept of an anthropological scene of origin—the "originary hypothesis"—provides the basis for a new understanding of every aspect of the plays, from the psychology of the characters to the ethical and dialogical conflicts upon which the drama is based. The result is a gripping commentary on the plays. Why does Lear abdicate and go mad? Why does Edgar torture his father with non-recognition? Why does Lucio accuse the Duke in Measure for Measure of madness and lechery, and why does Isabella remain silent at the end? In approaching these and other questions from the perspective of the originary hypothesis, van Oort helps us to see the ethical predicament of the plays, and, in the process, makes Shakespeare new again.
In this revisionist account of romantic-era poetry and language philosophy, Tristram Wolff recovers vibrant ways of thinking language and nature together. Wolff argues that well-known writers including Phillis Wheatley Peters, William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Henry David Thoreau offer a radical chronopolitics in reaction to the "uprooted word," or the formal analytic used to classify languages in progressive time according to a primitivist timeline of history and a hierarchy of civilization. Before the bad naturalisms of nineteenth-century race science could harden language into place as a metric of social difference, poets and thinkers try to soften, thicken, deepen, and dissolve it. This naturalizing tendency makes language more difficult to uproot from its active formation in the lives of its speakers. And its "gray romanticism" simultaneously gives language different kinds of time—most strikingly, the deep time of geologic form—to forestall the hardening of time into progress. Reorienting romantic studies to consider colonialism's pervasive effects on theories of language origin, Wolff shows us the ambivalent position of romantics in this history. His reparative reading makes visible language's ability to reimagine social forms.
What does the term "reading" mean? Matthew Rubery's exploration of the influence neurodivergence has on the ways individuals read asks us to consider that there may be no one definition. This alternative history of reading tells the stories of "atypical" readers and the impact had on their lives by neurological conditions affecting their ability to make sense of the printed word: from dyslexia, hyperlexia, and alexia to synesthesia, hallucinations, and dementia. Rubery's focus on neurodiversity aims to transform our understanding of the very concept of reading. Drawing on personal testimonies gathered from literature, film, life writing, social media, medical case studies, and other sources to express how cognitive differences have shaped people's experiences both on and off the page, Rubery contends that there is no single activity known as reading. Instead, there are multiple ways of reading (and, for that matter, not reading) despite the ease with which we use the term. Pushing us to rethink what it means to read, Reader's Block moves toward an understanding of reading as a spectrum that is capacious enough to accommodate the full range of activities documented in this fascinating and highly original book. Read it from cover to cover, out of sequence, or piecemeal. Read it upside down, sideways, or in a mirror. For just as there is no right way to read, there is no right way to read this book. What matters is that you are doing something with it—something that Rubery proposes should be called "reading."
A captivating biography that celebrates the audacious, inspiring life and works of John Milton, revealing how he speaks to our times. John Milton is unrivalled—for the music of his verse and the breadth of his learning. In this brisk, topical, and engaging biography, Stephen B. Dobranski brushes the scholarly dust from the portrait of the artist to reveal Milton's essential humanity and his unwavering commitment to ideals—freedom of religion and the right and responsibility of all persons to think for themselves—that are still relevant and necessary in our times. Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, is considered by many to be English poetry's masterpiece. Samuel Johnson, not one for effusive praise, claimed that from Milton's "books alone the Art of English Poetry might be learned." But Milton's renown rests on more than his artistic achievements. In a time of convulsive political turmoil, he justified the killing of a king, pioneered free speech, and publicly defended divorce. He was, in short, an iconoclast, an independent, even revolutionary, thinker. He was also an imperfect man—acrimonious, sometimes mean. Above all, he understood adversity. Afflicted by blindness, illness, and political imprisonment, Milton always sought to "bear up and steer right onward" through life's hardships. Dobranski looks beyond Milton's academic standing, beyond his reputation as a dour and devout purist, to reveal the ongoing power of his works and the dauntless courage that he both wrote about and exemplified.
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. Lubey offers a surprising take on a deeply misunderstood cultural form: pornography transforms sexual description into feminist commentary, revealing the genre's deep knowledge of how social inequities are perpetuated as well as its plans for how to rectify them.
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 Fredric 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.
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.
Recent thinking has resuscitated civility as an important paradigm for engaging with a violence that must be deemed endemic to our lives. But, while it is widely acknowledged that civility works against violence, and that literature generates or accompanies civility and engenders tolerance, civility has also been understood as violence in disguise, and literature, which has only rarely sought to claim the power of violence, has often been accused of inciting it. This book sets out to describe the ways in which these words—violence, literature and civility—and the concepts they evoke are mutually entangled, and the uses to which these entanglements have been put. Simpson's argument follows a broadly historical trajectory through the long modern period from the Renaissance to the present, drawing on the work of historians, political scientists, literary scholars and philosophers. The result is a distinctly new argument about the complex and often mystified entanglements between literature, civility and violence in the anglophone Atlantic sphere. What now are our expectations of civility and literature, separately and together? How do these long-familiar but residually imprecise concepts stand up to the demands of the modern world? Simpson's argument is that, despite and perhaps because of their imperfect conceptualization, both persist as important protocols for the critique of violence.
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.
In this new work, political theorist Michael J. Thompson argues that modern societies are witnessing a decline in one of the core building blocks of modernity: the autonomous self. Far from being an illusion of the Enlightenment, Thompson contends that the individual is a defining feature of the project to build a modern democratic culture and polity. One of the central reasons for its demise in recent decades has been the emergence of what he calls the "cybernetic society," a cohesive totalization of the social logics of the institutional spheres of economy, culture and polity. These logics have been progressively defined by the imperatives of economic growth and technical-administrative management of labor and consumption, routinizing patterns of life, practices, and consciousness throughout the culture. Evolving out of the neoliberal transformation of economy and society since the 1980s, the cybernetic society has transformed how that the individual is articulated in contemporary society. Thompson examines the various pathologies of the self and consciousness that result from this form of socialization—such as hyper-reification, alienated moral cognition, false consciousness, and the withered ego—in new ways to demonstrate the extent of deformation of modern selfhood. Only with a more robust, more socially embedded concept of autonomy as critical agency can we begin to reconstruct the principles of democratic individuality and community.
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 history of projected images at the turn of the seventeenth century reveals a changing perception of chance and order, contingency and form. In Projecting Spirits, Pasi Väliaho maps how the leading optical media of the period—the camera obscura and the magic lantern—developed in response to, and framed, the era's key intellectual dilemma of whether the world fell under God's providential care, or was subject to chance and open to speculating. As Väliaho shows, camera obscuras and magic lanterns were variously employed to give the world an intelligible and manageable design. Jesuit scholars embraced devices of projection as part of their pursuit of divine government, whilst the Royal Society fellows enlisted them in their quest for empirical knowledge as well as colonial expansion. Projections of light and shadow grew into critical metaphors in early responses to the turbulences of finance. In such instances, Väliaho argues, "projection" became an indispensable cognitive form to both assert providence, and to make sense of an economic reality that was gradually escaping from divine guidance. Drawing on a range of materials—philosophical, scientific and religious literature, visual arts, correspondence, poems, pamphlets, and illustrations—this provocative and inventive work expands our concept of the early media of projection, revealing how they spoke to early modern thinkers, and shaped a new, speculative concept of the world.
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.
This volume provides the first English translation of Nietzsche's unpublished notes from the spring of 1884 through the winter of 1884–85, the period in which he was composing the fourth and final part of his favorite work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. These notebooks therefore provide special insight into Nietzsche's philosophical concept of superior humans,as well as important clues to the identities of the famous nineteenth-century European figures who inspired Nietzsche's invention of fictional characters such as "the prophet," "the sorcerer," and "the ugliest human."In these notebooks, Nietzsche also further explores ideas that were introduced in the first three parts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Zarathustra's teaching about the death of God; his proclamation that it is time for humankind to overcome itself and create the superhumans; his discovery that the secret of life is the will to power; and his most profound thought—that the entire cosmos will eternally return. Readers will encounter here a wealth of material that Nietzsche would include in his next book, Beyond Good and Evil, as he engages the ideas of Kant and Schopenhauer, challenges cultural icons like Richard Wagner, and mercilessly exposes the foibles of his contemporaries, especially of his fellow Germans. Readers will also discover an extensive collection of Nietzsche's poetry. Richly annotated and accompanied by a detailed translators' afterword, this volume showcases the cosmopolitanism at work in Nietzsche's multifaceted and critical exploration of aesthetic and cultural influences that transcend national (and nationalist) notions of literature, music, and culture.
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.
A strike pattern is a signature of violence carved into the land—bomb craters or fragments of explosives left behind, forgotten. In Strike Patterns, poet and anthropologist Leah Zani journeys to a Lao river community where people live alongside such relics of a secret war. With sensitive and arresting prose, Zani reveals the layered realities that settle atop one another in Laos—from its French colonial history to today's authoritarian state—all blown open by the war. This excavation of postwar life's balance between the mundane, the terrifying, and the extraordinary propels Zani to confront her own explosive past. From 1964 to 1973, the United States carried out a covert air war against Laos. Frequently overshadowed by the war with Vietnam, the Secret War was the longest and most intense air war in history. As Zani uncovers this hidden legacy, she finds herself immersed in the lives of her hosts: Chantha, a daughter of war refugees who grapples with her place in a future Laos of imagined prosperity; Channarong, a bomb technician whose Thai origins allow him to stand apart from the battlefields he clears; and Bounmi, a young man who has inherited his bomb expertise from his father but now struggles to imagine a similar future for his unborn son. Wandering through their lives are the restless ghosts of kin and strangers. Today, much of Laos remains contaminated with dangerous leftover explosives. Despite its obscurity, the Secret War has become a shadow model for modern counterinsurgency. Investigating these shadows of war, Zani spends time with silk weavers and rice farmers, bomb clearance crews and black market war scrap traders, ritual healers and survivors of explosions. Combining her fieldnotes with poetry, fiction, and memoir she reflects on the power of building new lives in the ruins.
The years 1921 to 1927 were the most productive of Robinson Jeffers's career. During this period, he wrote not only many of his most well-known lyric poems but also Tamar, The Tower Beyond Tragedy, Roan Stallion, and The Women at Point Sur—the long poems that first established his reputation as a major American poet. Including an introduction, chronology, and critical afterword, the Point Alma Venus manuscripts presented here gather Jeffers's four unfinished but substantial preliminary attempts at what became The Women at Point Sur, which Jeffers believed was the "most inclusive, and poetically the most intense" of his narrative poems. The Point Alma Venus fragments and versions shed important light on the composition and themes of The Women at Point Sur. Further, they likely predate other key work from this crucial period, making them a necessary context for those who wish to clarify Jeffers's poetic development and to reinterpret his practice of narrative poetry. Ultimately, they call on general and scholarly readers alike to reconsider Jeffers's place in the canon of modern American poetry.
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. Winner of the 2022 MLA Prize for Independent Scholars, sponsored by the Modern Language Association
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.
A pathbreaking exploration of the fate of utopia in our troubled times, this book shows how the historically intertwined endeavors of utopia and critique might be leveraged in response to humanity's looming existential challenges. Utopia in the Age of Survival makes the case that critical social theory needs to reinstate utopia as a speculative myth. At the same time the left must reassume utopia as an action-guiding hypothesis—that is, as something still possible. S. D. Chrostowska looks to the vibrant, visionary mid-century resurgence of embodied utopian longings and projections in Surrealism, the Situationist International, and critical theorists writing in their wake, reconstructing utopia's link to survival through to the earliest, most radical phase of the French environmental movement. Survival emerges as the organizing concept for a variety of democratic political forms that center the corporeality of desire in social movements contesting the expanding management of life by state institutions across the globe. Vigilant and timely, balancing fine-tuned analysis with broad historical overview to map the utopian impulse across contemporary cultural and political life, Chrostowska issues an urgent report on the vitality of utopia.
This volume in The Complete Works presents the first English translations of Nietzsche's unpublished notebooks from Winter 1874/1875 through 1878, the period in which he developed the mixed aphoristic-essayistic mode that continued across the rest of his career. These notebooks comprise a range of different materials, including early drafts and near-final versions of aphorisms that would appear in both volumes of Human, All Too Human. Additionally, there are extensive notes for a never-completed Unfashionable Observation that was to be titled "We Philologists," early drafts for the final sections of "Richard Wagner in Bayreuth," plans for other possible publications, and detailed reading notes on philologists, philosophers, and historians of his era, including Friedrich August Wolf, Eugen Dühring, and Jacob Burckhardt. Through this volume, readers gain insight into Nietzsche's emerging sense of himself as a composer of complexly orchestrated, stylistically innovative philosophical meditations—influenced by, but moving well beyond, the modes used by aphoristic precursors such as Goethe, La Rochefoucauld, Vauvenargues, and Schopenhauer. Further, these notebooks allow readers to trace more closely Nietzsche's development of ideas that remain central to his mature philosophy, such as the contrast between free and constrained spirits, the interplay of national, supra-national, and personal identities, and the cultural centrality of the process of Bildung as formation, education, and cultivation. With this latest book in the series, Stanford continues its English-language publication of the famed Colli-Montinari edition of Nietzsche's complete works, which include the philosopher's notebooks and early unpublished writings. Scrupulously edited so as to establish a new standard for the field, each volume includes an Afterword that presents and contextualizes the material it contains.
An incisive exploration of the way Greek myths empower us to defeat tyranny. As tyrannical passions increasingly plague twenty-first-century politics, tales told in ancient Greek epics and tragedies provide a vital antidote. Democracy as a concept did not exist until the Greeks coined the term and tried the experiment, but the idea can be traced to stories that the ancient Greeks told and retold. From the eighth through the fifth centuries BCE, Homeric epics and Athenian tragedies exposed the tyrannical potential of individuals and groups large and small. These stories identified abuses of power as self-defeating. They initiated and fostered a movement away from despotism and toward broader forms of political participation. Following her highly praised book Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths, the classicist Emily Katz Anhalt retells tales from key ancient Greek texts and proceeds to interpret the important message they hold for us today. As she reveals, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Aeschylus's Oresteia, and Sophocles's Antigone encourage us—as they encouraged the ancient Greeks—to take responsibility for our own choices and their consequences. These stories emphasize the responsibilities that come with power (any power, whether derived from birth, wealth, personal talents, or numerical advantage), reminding us that the powerful and the powerless alike have obligations to each other. They assist us in restraining destructive passions and balancing tribal allegiances with civic responsibilities. They empower us to resist the tyrannical impulses not only of others but also in ourselves. In an era of political polarization, Embattled demonstrates that if we seek to eradicate tyranny in all its toxic forms, ancient Greek epics and tragedies can point the way.
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.
Green Mass is a meditation on—and with—twelfth-century Christian mystic and polymath Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Attending to Hildegard's vegetal vision, which greens theological tradition and imbues plant life with spirit, philosopher Michael Marder uncovers a verdant mode of thinking. The book stages a fresh encounter between present-day and premodern concerns, ecology and theology, philosophy and mysticism, the material and the spiritual, in word and sound. Hildegard's lush notion of viriditas, the vegetal power of creation, is emblematic of her deeply entwined understanding of physical reality and spiritual elevation. From blossoming flora to burning desert, Marder plays with the symphonic multiplicity of meanings in her thought, listening to the resonances between the ardency of holy fire and the aridity of a world aflame. Across Hildegard's cosmos, we hear the anarchic proliferation of her ecological theology, in which both God and greening are circular, without beginning or end. Introduced with a foreword by philosopher Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback and accompanied by cellist Peter Schuback's musical movements, which echo both Hildegard's own compositions and key themes in each chapter of the book, this multifaceted work creates a resonance chamber, in which to discover the living world anew. The original compositions accompanying each chapter are available free for streaming and for download at www.sup.org/greenmass
What does a truly democratic experience of political action look like today? In this provocative new work, Adriana Cavarero weighs in on contemporary debates about the relationship between democracy, happiness, and dissent. Drawing on Arendt's understanding of politics as a participatory experience, but also discussing texts by Émile Zola, Elias Canetti, Boris Pasternak, and Roland Barthes, along with engaging Judith Butler, Cavarero proposes a new view of democracy, based not on violence, but rather on the spontaneous experience of a plurality of bodies coming together in public. Expanding on the themes explored in previous works, Cavarero offers a timely intervention into current thinking about the nature of democracy, suggesting that its emergence thrives on the nonviolent creativity of a widespread, participatory, and relational power that is shared horizontally rather than vertically. From digital democracy to selfies to contemporary protest movements, Cavarero argues that we need to rethink our focus on individual happiness and turn toward rediscovering the joyful emotions of birth through plural interaction. Yes, let us be happy, she urges, but let us do so publicly, politically, together.
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.
Dances and balls appear throughout world literature as venues for young people to meet, flirt, and form relationships, as any reader of Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, or Romeo and Juliet can attest. The popularity of social dance transcends class, gender, ethnic, and national boundaries. In the context of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jewish culture, dance offers crucial insights into debates about emancipation and acculturation. While traditional Jewish law prohibits men and women from dancing together, Jewish mixed-sex dancing was understood as the very sign of modernity––and the ultimate boundary transgression. Writers of modern Jewish literature deployed dance scenes as a charged and complex arena for understanding the limits of acculturation, the dangers of ethnic mixing, and the implications of shifting gender norms and marriage patterns, while simultaneously entertaining their readers. In this pioneering study, Sonia Gollance examines the specific literary qualities of dance scenes, while also paying close attention to the broader social implications of Jewish engagement with dance. Combining cultural history with literary analysis and drawing connections to contemporary representations of Jewish social dance, Gollance illustrates how mixed-sex dancing functions as a flexible metaphor for the concerns of Jewish communities in the face of cultural transitions.
A lively examination of the life and work of one of the great Enlightenment intellectuals Philosopher, translator, novelist, art critic, and editor of the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot was one of the liveliest figures of the Enlightenment. But how might we delineate the contours of his diverse oeuvre, which, unlike the works of his contemporaries, Voltaire, Rousseau, Schiller, Kant, or Hume, is clearly characterized by a centrifugal dynamic? Taking Hegel's fascinated irritation with Diderot's work as a starting point, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht explores the question of this extraordinary intellectual's place in the legacy of the eighteenth century. While Diderot shared most of the concerns typically attributed to his time, the ways in which he coped with them do not fully correspond to what we consider Enlightenment thought. Conjuring scenes from Diderot's by turns turbulent and quiet life, offering close readings of several key books, and probing the motif of a tension between physical perception and conceptual experience, Gumbrecht demonstrates how Diderot belonged to a vivid intellectual periphery that included protagonists such as Lichtenberg, Goya, and Mozart. With this provocative and elegant work, he elaborates the existential preoccupations of this periphery, revealing the way they speak to us today.
When people encounter consumer goods—sugar, clothes, phones—they find little to no information about their origins. The goods will thus remain anonymous, and the labor that went into making them, the supply chain through which they traveled, will remain obscured. In this book, Tad Skotnicki argues that this encounter is an endemic feature of capitalist societies, and one with which consumers have struggled for centuries in the form of activist movements constructed around what he calls The Sympathetic Consumer. This book documents the uncanny similarities shared by such movements over the course of three centuries: the transatlantic abolitionist movement, US and English consumer movements around the turn of the twentieth century, and contemporary Fair Trade activism. Offering a comparative historical study of consumer activism the book shows, in vivid detail, how activists wrestled with the broader implications of commodity exchange. These activists arrived at a common understanding of the relationship between consumers, producers, and commodities, and concluded that consumers were responsible for sympathizing with invisible laborers. Ultimately, Skotnicki provides a framework to identify a capitalist culture by examining how people interpret everyday phenomena essential to it.
Anyone who has ever experienced a sporting event in a large stadium knows the energy that emanates from stands full of fans cheering on their teams. Although "the masses" have long held a thoroughly bad reputation in politics and culture, literary critic and avid sports fan Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht finds powerful, as yet unexplored reasons to sing the praises of crowds. Drawing on his experiences as a spectator in the stadiums of South America, Germany, and the US, Gumbrecht presents the stadium as "a ritual of intensity," thereby offering a different lens through which we might capture and even appreciate the dynamic of the masses. In presenting this alternate view, Gumbrecht enters into conversation with thinkers who were more critical of the potential of the masses, such as Gustave Le Bon, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, José Ortega y Gasset, Elias Canetti, Siegfried Kracauer, T. W. Adorno, or Max Horkheimer. A preface explores college crowds as a uniquely specific phenomenon of American culture. Pairing philosophical rigor with the enthusiasm of a true fan, Gumbrecht writes from the inside and suggests that being part of a crowd opens us up to an experience beyond ourselves.
The enclosure of the commons, space once available for communal use, was not a singular event but an act of "slow violence" that transformed lands, labor, and basic concepts of public life leading into the nineteenth century. The Afterlife of Enclosure examines three canonical British writers—Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy—as narrators of this history, the long duration and diffuse effects of which required new literary forms to capture the lived experience of enclosure and its aftermath. This study boldly reconceives the realist novel, not as an outdated artifact, but as witness to the material and environmental dispossession of enclosure—and bearer of utopian energies. These writers reinvented a commons committed to the collective nature of the social world. Illuminating the common at the heart of the novel—from common characters to commonplace events—Carolyn Lesjak reveals an experimental figuration of the lost commons, once a defining feature of the British landscape and political imaginary. In the face of privatization, climate change, new enclosures, and the other forms of slow violence unfolding globally today, this book looks back to a literature of historical trauma and locates within it a radical path forward.
We need a new philosophy of the earth. Geological time used to refer to slow and gradual processes, but today we are watching land sink into the sea and forests transform into deserts. We can even see the creation of new geological strata made of plastic, chicken bones, and other waste that could remain in the fossil record for millennia or longer. Crafting a philosophy of geology that rewrites natural and human history from the broader perspective of movement, Thomas Nail provides a new materialist, kinetic ethics of the earth that speaks to this moment. Climate change and other ecological disruptions challenge us to reconsider the deep history of minerals, atmosphere, plants, and animals and to take a more process-oriented perspective that sees humanity as part of the larger cosmic and terrestrial drama of mobility and flow. Building on his earlier work on the philosophy of movement, Nail argues that we should shift our biocentric emphasis from conservation to expenditure, flux, and planetary diversity. Theory of the Earth urges us to rethink our ethical relationship to one another, the planet, and the cosmos at large.
Do we need to be a "people," populus, in order to embrace democracy and live together in peace? If so, what is a populus? Is it by definition a nation? What exactly do we mean by nationality? In this book, Davide Tarizzo takes up the problem of modern democratic, liberal peoples—how to define them, how to explain their invariance over time, and how to differentiate one people from another. Specifically, Tarizzo proposes that Jacques Lacan's theory of the subject enables us to clearly distinguish between the notion of personal identity and the notion of subjectivity, and that this very distinction is critical to understanding the nature of nations whose sense of nationhood does not rest on any self-evident identity or pre-existent cultural or ethnic homogeneity between individuals. Developing an argument about the birth and rise of modern peoples that draws on the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789 as examples, Tarizzo introduces the concept of "political grammar"—a phrase that denotes the conditions of political subjectification that enable the enunciation of an emergent "we." Democracy, Tarizzo argues, flourishes when the opening between subjectivity and identity is maintained. And in fact, as he compellingly demonstrates, depending on the political grammar at work, democracy can be productively perceived as a process of never-ending recovery from a lack of clear national identity.
How did the economy become bound up with faith in infinite wealth creation and obsessive consumption? Drawing on the economic writings of eighteenth-century French theologians, historian Charly Coleman uncovers the surprising influence of the Catholic Church on the development of capitalism. Even during the Enlightenment, a sense of the miraculous did not wither under the cold light of calculation. Scarcity, long regarded as the inescapable fate of a fallen world, gradually gave way to a new belief in heavenly as well as worldly affluence. Animating this spiritual imperative of the French economy was a distinctly Catholic ethic that—in contrast to Weber's famous "Protestant ethic"—privileged the marvelous over the mundane, consumption over production, and the pleasures of enjoyment over the rigors of delayed gratification. By viewing money, luxury, and debt through the lens of sacramental theory, Coleman demonstrates that the modern economy casts far beyond rational action and disenchanted designs, and in ways that we have yet to apprehend fully.
The past is what happened. History is what we remember and write about that past, the narratives we craft to make sense out of our memories and their sources. But what does it mean to look at the past and to remember that "nothing happened"? Why might we feel as if "nothing is the way it was"? This book transforms these utterly ordinary observations and redefines "Nothing" as something we have known and can remember. "Nothing" has been a catch-all term for everything that is supposedly uninteresting or is just not there. It will take some—possibly considerable—mental adjustment before we can see Nothing as Susan A. Crane does here, with a capital "n." But Nothing has actually been happening all along. As Crane shows in her witty and provocative discussion, Nothing is nothing less than fascinating. When Nothing has changed but we think that it should have, we might call that injustice; when Nothing has happened over a long, slow period of time, we might call that boring. Justice and boredom have histories. So too does being relieved or disappointed when Nothing happens—for instance, when a forecasted end of the world does not occur, and millennial movements have to regroup. By paying attention to how we understand Nothing to be happening in the present, what it means to "know Nothing" or to "do Nothing," we can begin to ask how those experiences will be remembered. Susan A. Crane moves effortlessly between different modes of seeing Nothing, drawing on visual analysis and cultural studies to suggest a new way of thinking about history. By remembering how Nothing happened, or how Nothing is the way it was, or how Nothing has changed, we can recover histories that were there all along.
The postwar US political imagination coalesced around a quintessential midcentury American trope: happiness. In Incremental Realism, Mary Esteve offers a bold, revisionist literary and cultural history of efforts undertaken by literary realists, public intellectuals, and policy activists to advance the value of public institutions and the claims of socioeconomic justice. Esteve specifically focuses on era-defining authors of realist fiction, including Philip Roth, Gwendolyn Brooks, Patricia Highsmith, Paula Fox, Peter Taylor, and Mary McCarthy, who mobilized the trope of happiness to reinforce the crucial value of public institutions, such as the public library, and the importance of pursuing socioeconomic justice, as envisioned by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and welfare-state liberals. In addition to embracing specific symbols of happiness, these writers also developed narrative modes—what Esteve calls "incremental realism"—that made justifiable the claims of disadvantaged Americans on the nation-state and promoted a small-canvas aesthetics of moderation. With this powerful demonstration of the way postwar literary fiction linked the era's familiar trope of happiness to political arguments about socioeconomic fairness and individual flourishing, Esteve enlarges our sense of the postwar liberal imagination and its attentiveness to better, possible worlds.
The Enlightenment remains widely associated with the rise of scientific progress and the loss of religious faith, a dual tendency that is thought to have contributed to the disenchantment of the world. In her wide-ranging and richly illustrated book, Tili Boon Cuillé questions the accuracy of this narrative by investigating the fate of the marvelous in the age of reason. Exploring the affinities between the natural sciences and the fine arts, Cuillé examines the representation of natural phenomena—whether harmonious or discordant—in natural history, painting, opera, and the novel from Buffon and Rameau to Ossian and Staël. She demonstrates that philosophical, artistic, and emotional responses to the "spectacle of nature" in eighteenth-century France included wonder, enthusiasm, melancholy, and the "sentiment of divinity." These "passions of the soul," traditionally associated with religion and considered antithetical to enlightenment, were linked to the faculties of reason, imagination, and memory that structured Diderot's Encyclopédie and to contemporary theorizations of the sublime. As Cuillé reveals, the marvelous was not eradicated but instead preserved through the establishment and reform of major French cultural institutions dedicated to science, art, religion, and folklore that were designed to inform, enchant, and persuade. This book has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
Wild Visionary reconsiders Maurice Sendak's life and work in the context of his experience as a Jewish gay man. Maurice (Moishe) Bernard Sendak (1928–2012) was a fierce, romantic, and shockingly funny truth seeker who intervened in modern literature and culture. Raising the stakes of children's books, Sendak painted childhood with the dark realism and wild imagination of his own sensitive "inner child," drawing on the queer and Yiddish sensibilities that shaped his singular voice. Interweaving literary biography and cultural history, Golan Y. Moskowitz follows Sendak from his parents' Brooklyn home to spaces of creative growth and artistic vision—from neighborhood movie palaces to Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Fire Island, and the Connecticut country home he shared with Eugene Glynn, his partner of more than fifty years. Further, he analyzes Sendak's investment in the figure of the endangered child in symbolic relation to collective touchstones that impacted the artist's perspective—the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the AIDS crisis. Through a deep exploration of Sendak's picture books, interviews, and previously unstudied personal correspondence, Wild Visionary offers a sensitive portrait of the most beloved and enchanting picture-book artist of our time.
Among the Jewish writers who emigrated from Eastern Europe to France in the 1910s and 1920s, a number chose to switch from writing in their languages of origin to writing primarily in French, a language that represented both a literary center and the promises of French universalism. But under the Nazi occupation of France from 1940 to 1944, these Jewish émigré writers—among them Irène Némirovsky, Benjamin Fondane, Romain Gary, Jean Malaquais, and Elsa Triolet—continued to write in their adopted language, even as the Vichy regime and Nazi occupiers denied their French identity through xenophobic and antisemitic laws. In this book, Julia Elsky argues that these writers reexamined both their Jewishness and their place as authors in France through the language in which they wrote. The group of authors Elsky considers depicted key moments in the war from their perspective as Jewish émigrés, including the June 1940 civilian flight from Paris, life in the occupied and southern zones, the roundups and internment camps, and the Resistance in France and in London. Writing in French, they expressed multiple cultural, religious, and linguistic identities, challenging the boundaries between center and periphery, between French and foreign, even when their sense of belonging was being violently denied.
For a generation of contemporary Anglo-American novelists, the question "Why write?" has been answered with a renewed will to believe in the ethical value of literature. Dissatisfied with postmodernist parody and pastiche, a broad array of novelist-critics—including J.M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Gish Jen, Ian McEwan, and Jonathan Franzen—champion the novel as the literary genre most qualified to illuminate individual ethical action and decision-making within complex and diverse social worlds. Key to this contemporary vision of the novel's ethical power is the task of knowing and being responsible to people different from oneself, and so thoroughly have contemporary novelists devoted themselves to the ethics of otherness, that this ethics frequently sets the terms for plot, characterization, and theme. In The Novel and the New Ethics, literary critic Dorothy J. Hale investigates how the contemporary emphasis on literature's social relevance sparks a new ethical description of the novel's social value that is in fact rooted in the modernist notion of narrative form. This "new" ethics of the contemporary moment has its origin in the "new" idea of novelistic form that Henry James inaugurated and which was consolidated through the modernist narrative experiments and was developed over the course of the twentieth century. In Hale's reading, the art of the novel becomes defined with increasing explicitness as an aesthetics of alterity made visible as a formalist ethics. In fact, it is this commitment to otherness as a narrative act which has conferred on the genre an artistic intensity and richness that extends to the novel's every word.
A Violent Peace offers a radical account of the United States' transformation into a total-war state. As the Cold War turned hot in the Pacific, antifascist critique disclosed a continuity between U.S. police actions in Asia and a rising police state at home. Writers including James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and W.E.B. Du Bois discerned in domestic strategies to quell racial protests the same counterintelligence logic structuring America's devastating wars in Asia. Examining U.S. militarism's centrality to the Cold War cultural imagination, Christine Hong assembles a transpacific archive—placing war writings, visual renderings of the American concentration camp, Japanese accounts of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, black radical human rights petitions, Korean War–era G.I. photographs, Filipino novels on guerrilla resistance, and Marshallese critiques of U.S. human radiation experiments alongside government documents. By making visible the way the U.S. war machine waged informal wars abroad and at home, this archive reveals how the so-called Pax Americana laid the grounds for solidarity—imagining collective futures beyond the stranglehold of U.S. militarism.
Five centuries after the forced conversion of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to Catholicism, stories of these conversos' descendants uncovering long-hidden Jewish roots have come to light and taken hold of the literary and popular imagination. This seemingly remote history has inspired a wave of contemporary writing involving hidden artifacts, familial whispers and secrets, and clandestine Jewish ritual practices pointing to a past that had been presumed dead and buried. The Converso's Return explores the cultural politics and literary impact of this reawakened interest in converso and crypto-Jewish history, ancestry, and identity, and asks what this fascination with lost-and-found heritage can tell us about how we relate to and make use of the past. Dalia Kandiyoti offers nuanced interpretations of contemporary fictional and autobiographical texts about crypto-Jews in Cuba, Mexico, New Mexico, Spain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey. These works not only imagine what might be missing from the historical archive but also suggest an alternative historical consciousness that underscores uncommon convergences of and solidarities within Sephardi, Christian, Muslim, converso, and Sabbatean histories. Steeped in diaspora, Sephardi, transamerican, Iberian, and world literature studies, The Converso's Return illuminates how the converso narrative can enrich our understanding of history, genealogy, and collective memory.
Memoirs of Jewish life in the east European shtetl often recall the hekdesh (town poorhouse) and its residents: beggars, madmen and madwomen, disabled people, and poor orphans. Stepchildren of the Shtetl tells the story of these marginalized figures from the dawn of modernity to the eve of the Holocaust. Combining archival research with analysis of literary, cultural, and religious texts, Natan M. Meir recovers the lived experience of Jewish society's outcasts and reveals the central role that they came to play in the drama of modernization. Those on the margins were often made to bear the burden of the nation as a whole, whether as scapegoats in moments of crisis or as symbols of degeneration, ripe for transformation by reformers, philanthropists, and nationalists. Shining a light into the darkest corners of Jewish society in eastern Europe—from the often squalid poorhouse of the shtetl to the slums and insane asylums of Warsaw and Odessa, from the conscription of poor orphans during the reign of Nicholas I to the cholera wedding, a magical ritual in which an epidemic was halted by marrying outcasts to each other in the town cemetery—Stepchildren of the Shtetl reconsiders the place of the lowliest members of an already stigmatized minority.
The German language holds an ambivalent and controversial place in the modern history of European Jews, representing different—often conflicting—historical currents. It was the language of the German classics, of German Jewish writers and scientists, of Central European Jewish culture, and of Herzl and the Zionist movement. But it was also the language of Hitler, Goebbels, and the German guards in Nazi concentration camps. The crucial role of German in the formation of Jewish national culture and politics in the late nineteenth century has been largely overshadowed by the catastrophic events that befell Jews under Nazi rule. German as a Jewish Problem tells the Jewish history of the German language, focusing on Jewish national movements in Central and Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel. Marc Volovici considers key writers and activists whose work reflected the multilingual nature of the Jewish national sphere and the centrality of the German language within it, and argues that it is impossible to understand the histories of modern Hebrew and Yiddish without situating them in relation to German. This book offers a new understanding of the language problem in modern Jewish history, turning to German to illuminate the questions and dilemmas that largely defined the experience of European Jews in the age of nationalism.
An innovative reassessment of the last writings and final years of Karl Marx. In the last years of his life, Karl Marx expanded his research in new directions—studying recent anthropological discoveries, analyzing communal forms of ownership in precapitalist societies, supporting the populist movement in Russia, and expressing critiques of colonial oppression in India, Ireland, Algeria, and Egypt. Between 1881 and 1883, he also traveled beyond Europe for the first and only time. Focusing on these last years of Marx's life, this book dispels two key misrepresentations of his work: that Marx ceased to write late in life, and that he was a Eurocentric and economic thinker fixated on class conflict alone. With The Last Years of Karl Marx, Marcello Musto claims a renewed relevance for the late work of Marx, highlighting unpublished or previously neglected writings, many of which remain unavailable in English. Readers are invited to reconsider Marx's critique of European colonialism, his ideas on non-Western societies, and his theories on the possibility of revolution in noncapitalist countries. From Marx's late manuscripts, notebooks, and letters emerge an author markedly different from the one represented by many of his contemporary critics and followers alike. As Marx currently experiences a significant rediscovery, this volume fills a gap in the popularly accepted biography and suggests an innovative reassessment of some of his key concepts.
A fascinating exploration of three individuals in fin-de-siècle France who pushed the boundaries of gender identity. Before the term "transgender" existed, there were those who experienced their gender in complex ways. Before Trans examines the lives and writings of Jane Dieulafoy (1850–1916), Rachilde (1860–1953), and Marc de Montifaud (1845–1912), three French writers whose gender expression did not conform to nineteenth-century notions of femininity. Dieulafoy fought alongside her husband in the Franco-Prussian War and traveled with him to the Middle East; later she wrote novels about girls becoming boys and enjoyed being photographed in her signature men's suits. Rachilde became famous in the 1880s for her controversial gender-bending novel Monsieur Vénus, published around the same time that she started using a calling card that read "Rachilde, Man of Letters." Montifaud began her career as an art critic before turning to erotic writings, for which she was repeatedly charged with "offense to public decency"; she wore tailored men's suits and a short haircut for much of her life and went by masculine pronouns among certain friends. Dieulafoy, Rachilde, and Montifaud established themselves as fixtures in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Paris at the same time as French writers, scientists, and doctors were becoming increasingly fascinated with sexuality and sexual difference. Even so, the concept of gender identity as separate from sexual identity did not yet exist. Before Trans explores these three figures' lifelong efforts to articulate a sense of selfhood that did not precisely align with the conventional gender roles of their day. Their intricate, personal stories provide vital historical context for our own efforts to understand the nature of gender identity and the ways in which it might be expressed.
The Peculiar Afterlife of Slavery explores how antiblack racism lived on through the figure of the Chinese worker in US literature after emancipation. Drawing out the connections between this liminal figure and the formal aesthetics of blackface minstrelsy in literature of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras, Caroline H. Yang reveals the ways antiblackness structured US cultural production during a crucial moment of reconstructing and re-narrating US empire after the Civil War. Examining texts by major American writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Sui Sin Far, and Charles Chesnutt—Yang traces the intertwined histories of blackface minstrelsy and Chinese labor. Her bold rereading of these authors' contradictory positions on race and labor sees the figure of the Chinese worker as both hiding and making visible the legacy of slavery and antiblackness. Ultimately, The Peculiar Afterlife of Slavery shows how the Chinese worker manifests the inextricable links between US literature, slavery, and empire, as well as the indispensable role of antiblackness as a cultural form in the United States.
A fresh and more capacious reading of the Western religious tradition on nature and creation, Thinking Nature and the Nature of Thinking puts medieval Irish theologian John Scottus Eriugena (810–877) into conversation with American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882). Challenging the biblical stewardship model of nature and histories of nature and religion that pit orthodoxy against the heresy of pantheism, Willemien Otten reveals a line of thought that has long made room for nature's agency as the coworker of God. Embracing in this more elusive idea of nature in a world beset by environmental crisis, she suggests, will allow us to see nature not as a victim but as an ally in a common quest for re-attunement to the divine. Putting its protagonists into further dialogue with such classic authors as Augustine, Maximus the Confessor, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and William James, her study deconstructs the idea of pantheism and paves the way for a new natural theology.
Photography and Its Shadow argues that the invention of photography marked a rupture in our relation to the world and what we see in it. The dominant theoretical and artistic paradigm for understanding the invention has been the tracing of shadows. But what photography really inaugurated was the shadow's disappearance—a disappearance that irreversibly changed our relationship to nature and the real, to time and to death. A way of negotiating impermanence, photography was marked from the start by an inherent contradiction. It conflated two incompatible configurations of the visible: an embodied human eye, deeply sensitive to nature, and a machine vision that aimed to reify the instant and wallow in images alone. Photography's history is replete with efforts to conceal the mystery of its paradoxical constitution. Born in the century of Nietzsche's "death of God," it long enacted the fraught subjectivity of its age. Anxious, haunted by a void, it used an array of strategies to take on ever-new identities. Challenging the hitherto most influential accounts of the practice and taking us from its origins to the present, Hagi Kenaan shows us how photography has been transformed over time, and how it transforms us.
Crossing distinct literatures, histories, and politics, Giving Form to an Asian and Latinx America reveals the intertwined story of contemporary Asian Americans and Latinxs through a shared literary aesthetic. Their transfictional literature creates expansive imagined worlds in which distinct stories coexist, offering artistic shape to their linked political and economic struggles. Long Le-Khac explores the work of writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Karen Tei Yamashita, Junot Díaz, and Aimee Phan. He shows how their fictions capture the uneven economic opportunities of the post–civil rights era, the Cold War as it exploded across Asia and Latin America, and the Asian and Latin American labor flows powering global capitalism today. Read together, Asian American and Latinx literatures convey astonishing diversity and untapped possibilities for coalition within the United States' fastest-growing immigrant and minority communities; to understand the changing shape of these communities we must see how they have formed in relation to each other. As the U.S. population approaches a minority-majority threshold, we urgently need methods that can look across the divisions and unequal positions of the racial system. Giving Form to an Asian and Latinx America leads the way with a vision for the future built on panethnic and cross-racial solidarity.
Two Studies of Friedrich Hölderlin shows how the poet enacts a radical theory of meaning that culminates in a unique and still groundbreaking concept of revolution, one that begins with a revolutionary understanding of language. The product of an intense engagement with both Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, the book presents Werner Hamacher's major attempts at developing a critical practice commensurate with the immensity of Hölderlin's late writings. These essays offer an incisive and innovative combination of critical theory and deconstruction while also identifying where influential critics like Heidegger fail to do justice to the poet's astonishing radicality. Readers will not only come away with a new appreciation of Hölderlin's poetic and political-theoretical achievements but will also discover the motivating force behind Hamacher's own achievements as a literary scholar and political theorist. An introduction by Julia Ng and an afterword by Peter Fenves provide further information about these studies and the academic and theoretical context in which they were composed.
Thinking is much broader than what our science-obsessed, utilitarian culture often takes it to be. More than mere problem solving or the methodical comprehension of our personal and natural circumstances, thinking may take the form of a poem, a painting, a sculpture, a museum exhibition, or a documentary film. Exploring a variety of works by contemporary artists and writers who exemplify poetic thinking, this book draws our attention to one of the crucial affordances of this form of creative human insight and wisdom: its capacity to help protect and cultivate human freedom. All the contemporary works of art and literature that Poetic Thinking Today examines touch on our recent experiences with tyranny in culture and politics. They express the uninhibited thoughts and ideas of their creators even as they foster poetic thinking in us. In an era characterized by the global reemergence of authoritarian tendencies, Amir Eshel writes with the future of the humanities in mind. He urges the acknowledgment and cultivation of poetic thinking as a crucial component of our intellectual pursuits in general and of our educational systems more specifically.
A case study of one of the most important global institutions of cultural policy formation, UNESCO and the Fate of the Literary demonstrates the relationship between such policymaking and transformations in the economy. Focusing on UNESCO's use of books, Sarah Brouillette identifies three phases in the agency's history and explores the literary and cultural programming of each. In the immediate postwar period, healthy economies made possible the funding of an infrastructure in support of a liberal cosmopolitanism and the spread of capitalist democracy. In the decolonizing 1960s and '70s, illiteracy and lack of access to literature were lamented as a "book hunger" in the developing world, and reading was touted as a universal humanizing value to argue for a more balanced communications industry and copyright regime. Most recently, literature has become instrumental in city and nation branding that drive tourism and the heritage industry. Today, the agency largely treats high literature as a commercially self-sustaining product for wealthy aging publics, and fundamental policy reform to address the uneven relations that characterize global intellectual property creation is off the table. UNESCO's literary programming is in this way highly suggestive. A trajectory that might appear to be one of triumphant success—literary tourism and festival programming can be quite lucrative for some people—is also, under a different light, a story of decline.
Thomas Wyatt didn't publish "They Flee from Me." It was written in a notebook, maybe abroad, maybe even in prison. Today it is in every poetry anthology. How did it survive? That is the story Peter Murphy tells—in vivid and compelling detail—of the accidents of fate that kept a great poem alive across 500 turbulent years. Wyatt's poem becomes an occasion to ask and answer numerous questions about literature, culture, and history. Itself about the passage of time, it allows us to consider why anyone would write such a thing in the first place, and why anyone would care to read or remember the person who wrote it. From the deadly, fascinating circles of Henry VIII's court to the contemporary classroom, The Long Public Life of a Short Private Poem also introduces us to a series of worlds. We meet antiquaries, editors, publishers, anthologizers, and critics whose own life stories beckon. And we learn how the poem came to be considered, after many centuries of neglect, a model of the "best" English has to offer and an ideal object of literary study. The result is an exploration of literature in the fine grain of the everyday and its needs: in the classroom, in society, and in the life of nations.
In recent years, the American fiction writer David Foster Wallace has been treated as a symbol, as an icon, and even a film character. Ordinary Unhappiness returns us to the reason we all know about him in the first place: his fiction. By closely examining Infinite Jest, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and The Pale King, Jon Baskin points readers to the work at the center of Wallace's oeuvre and places that writing in conversation with a philosophical tradition that includes Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, and Cavell, among others. What emerges is a Wallace who not only speaks to our postmodern addictions in the age of mass entertainment and McDonald's but who seeks to address a quiet desperation at the heart of our modern lives. Freud said that the job of the therapeutic process was to turn "hysterical misery into ordinary unhappiness." This book makes a case for how Wallace achieved this in his fiction.
When it comes to historical violence and contemporary inequality, none of us are completely innocent. We may not be direct agents of harm, but we may still contribute to, inhabit, or benefit from regimes of domination that we neither set up nor control. Arguing that the familiar categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander do not adequately account for our connection to injustices past and present, Michael Rothberg offers a new theory of political responsibility through the figure of the implicated subject. The Implicated Subject builds on the comparative, transnational framework of Rothberg's influential work on memory to engage in reflection and analysis of cultural texts, archives, and activist movements from such contested zones as transitional South Africa, contemporary Israel/Palestine, post-Holocaust Europe, and a transatlantic realm marked by the afterlives of slavery. As these diverse sites of inquiry indicate, the processes and histories illuminated by implicated subjectivity are legion in our interconnected world. An array of globally prominent artists, writers, and thinkers—from William Kentridge, Hito Steyerl, and Jamaica Kincaid, to Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi, Judith Butler, and the Combahee River Collective—speak to this interconnection and show how confronting our own implication in difficult histories can lead to new forms of internationalism and long-distance solidarity.
The first sustained study of the relations between literary celebrity and queer sexuality, Categorically Famous looks at the careers of three celebrity writers—James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, and Gore Vidal—in relation to the gay and lesbian liberation movement of the 1960s. While none of these writers "came out" in our current sense, all contributed, through their public images and their writing, to a greater openness toward homosexuality that was an important precondition of liberation. Their fame was crucial, for instance, to the growing conception of homosexuals as an oppressed minority rather than as individuals with a psychological problem. Challenging scholarly orthodoxies, Guy Davidson urges us to rethink the usual opposition to liberation and to gay and lesbian visibility within queer studies as well as standard definitions of celebrity. The conventional ban on openly discussing the homosexuality of public figures meant that media reporting at the time did not focus on his protagonists' private lives. At the same time, the careers of these "semi-visible" gay celebrities should be understood as a crucial halfway point between the era of the open secret and the present-day post-liberation era in which queer people, celebrities very much included, are enjoined to come out.
Creation and the giving of orders are closely entwined in Western culture, where God commands the world into existence and later issues the injunctions known as the Ten Commandments. The arche, or origin, is always also a command, and a beginning is always the first principle that governs and decrees. This is as true for theology, where God not only creates the world but governs and continues to govern through continuous creation, as it is for the philosophical and political tradition according to which beginning and creation, command and will, together form a strategic apparatus without which our society would fall apart. The five essays collected here aim to deactivate this apparatus through a patient archaeological inquiry into the concepts of work, creation, and command. Giorgio Agamben explores every nuance of the arche in search of an an-archic exit strategy. By the book's final chapter, anarchy appears as the secret center of power, brought to light so as to make possible a philosophical thought that might overthrow both the principle and its command.
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.
Divine Variations offers a new account of the development of scientific ideas about race. Focusing on the production of scientific knowledge over the last three centuries, Terence Keel uncovers the persistent links between pre-modern Christian thought and contemporary scientific perceptions of human difference. He argues that, instead of a rupture between religion and modern biology on the question of human origins, modern scientific theories of race are, in fact, an extension of Christian intellectual history. Keel's study draws on ancient and early modern theological texts and biblical commentaries, works in Christian natural philosophy, seminal studies in ethnology and early social science, debates within twentieth-century public health research, and recent genetic analysis of population differences and ancient human DNA. From these sources, Keel demonstrates that Christian ideas about creation, ancestry, and universalism helped form the basis of modern scientific accounts of human diversity—despite the ostensible shift in modern biology towards scientific naturalism, objectivity, and value neutrality. By showing the connections between Christian thought and scientific racial thinking, this book calls into question the notion that science and religion are mutually exclusive intellectual domains and proposes that the advance of modern science did not follow a linear process of secularization.
The Re-Enchantment of the World is an interdisciplinary volume that challenges the long-prevailing view of modernity as "disenchanted." There is of course something to the widespread idea, so memorably put into words by Max Weber, that modernity is characterized by the "progressive disenchantment of the world." Yet what is less often recognized is the fact that a powerful counter-tendency runs alongside this one, an overwhelming urge to fill the vacuum left by departed convictions, and to do so without invoking superseded belief systems. In fact, modernity produces an array of strategies for re-enchantment, each fully compatible with secular rationality. It has to, because God has many "aspects"—or to put it in more secular terms, because traditional religion offers so much in so many domains. From one thinker to the next, the question of just what, in religious enchantment, needs to be replaced in a secular world receives an entirely different answer. Now, for the first time, many of these strategies are laid out in a single volume, with contributions by specialists in literature, history, and philosophy.