When an English translation of Being and Event appeared in 2005, Alain Badiou took the opportunity to reminisce about the initial French publication some twenty years before: “at that moment I was quite aware of having written a ‘great’ book of philosophy.” He located that greatness in four “affirmations” and one “radical thesis.”
Ricardo L. Nirenberg is a retired mathematician and the editor of the literary journal Offcourse.org. His latest book is the novel Wave Mechanics: A Love Story (2008). David Nirenberg is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought in the Department of History and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His most recent book is (with Herbert Kessler) Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (2011). The authors are father and son.
Except under extraordinary circumstances, most of us do not look forward with any eagerness to our own deaths. That said, one of the few positive thoughts that can accompany the prospect of dying is the possibility of being remembered with affection or respect. Those of us living ordinary lives out of the public eye would expect to be lamented by our loved ones and commemorated in their living memories and perhaps by some modest headstone or plaque in a place that had meant something to us or to those we leave behind. Few of us anticipate a future in which there are no memories of who we were and no record of at least our names.
Joseph DeLappe is a professor in the Department of Art at the University of Nevada, where he directs the Digital Media Studio. His performances and electromechanical installations have been shown throughout the United States and abroad. David Simpson is G. B. Needham Chair and Distinguished Prefessor of English at the University of California, Davis. He is currently completing a book manuscript titled Romanticism and the Question of the Stranger.
Must We Mean What We Say? is Stanley Cavell's first book, and, in a sense, it is his most important. It contains all the themes that Cavell continues to develop masterfully throughout his philosophy. There is a renewed usage of J. L. Austin's theory of speech acts, and, in the classic essay “The Availability of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy,” he establishes the foundations of a radical reading of Ludwig Wittgenstein (later taken up in The Claim of Reason), the connections among skepticism, acknowledgement, and Shakespearean tragedy (which one finds in Disowning Knowledge and, in a positive form, in Pursuits of Happiness); there is the reflection on the ordinary that runs throughout his later works (In Quest of the Ordinary and A Pitch of Philosophy); and, finally, there is the original aesthetic approach that defines Cavell's work, through his objects—which range from William Shakespeare to Samuel Beckett and pass through Hollywood comedies and melodrama, and opera—and, above all, through his style and method.
Sandra Laugier is professor of philosophy at the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon Sorbonne). She is the author of Du réel à l’ordinaire (1999), Recommencer la philosophie (1999), Une Autre Pensée politique américaine: La Démocratie radicale d’Emerson à Stanley Cavell (2004), Éthique, littérature, vie humaine (2006), and Wittgenstein, les sens de l’usage (2009). Her current projects include a monograph on Wittgenstein, Cavell, and expressiveness, Le Mythe de l’inexpressivité (2010).
When I first agreed to undergo chemotherapy, I found myself haunted by Franz Kafka's parable “In the Penal Colony.” The grisly short story was easy to translate into language pertinent to my ominous sense of the standard treatment of advanced (and thus probably incurable) ovarian cancer. About to be attached to a remarkable piece of apparatus, the condemned woman tastes fear rising off her tongue as she finds herself led forward into a maze of equipment, but is assured that the machinery should go on working continuously for six hours or six days. If anything were to go wrong, it would only be a small matter that could then be set right at once by the uniformed technician. So my variation began.
Susan Gubar is Distinguished Professor Emerita of English at Indiana University, where she has worked in the fields of gender, African-American, and Jewish studies. Most recently she has edited a collection of autobiographical essays by pioneering academics—True Confessions: Feminist Professors Tell Stories out of School (2011). She is currently completing a manuscript tentatively titled, The Woes of the Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer.
What is life? A gathering consensus in anthropology, science studies, and philosophy of biology suggests that the theoretical object of biology, “life,” is today in transformation, if not dissolution. Proliferating reproductive technologies, along with genomic reshufflings of biomatter in such practices as cloning, have unwound the facts of life.
Stefan Helmreich is an associate professor of anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World (1998) and Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (2009).
The starting point of this essay is that there is a contradiction at the heart of our current and hyperbolic understandings of life. To be more precise, on the one hand there is the historical novelty of biology as a modern science and set of technologies. On the other hand, life is simultaneously understood according to biological protocols that seem void of history.
Gil Anidjar is associate professor in the Department of Religion and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of, among other books, The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy (2003) and Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (2008). He is completing a manuscript entitled Blood: A Critique of Christianity.
The great microsociologist of social interaction rituals, Erving Goffman, notes, in the opening part of his underknown collection of essays Forms of Talk, this little moment in the “gamelike back-and-forth process” between a speaker and a respondent: “In this case, [the respondent] ignores the immediately preceding sentences to which he has probably not paid attention since his idea occurred to him, and he interrupts to present his idea despite the non-sequitur element of his sentence.”
Mark Seltzer is Evan Frankel Professor of Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. His most recent books are Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture (1998) and True Crime: Observations on Violence and Modernity (2007). The present essay is part of a forthcoming book called The Official World.
David Antin is a poet, performance artist, and art and literary critic. He has published six books of talk pieces, Talking (1972), Talking at the Boundaries (1976), Tuning (1984), What It Means to Be Avant-Garde (1993), I Never Knew What Time It Was (2005), and John Cage Uncaged Is Still Cagey (2005). His most recent work rethinks Freud in relation to our understanding of memory. He is professor emeritus of visual arts at the University of California, San Diego.
I first heard about renshi from Hiromi Itō, a remarkable and justifiably celebrated Japanese poet and writer, who has also been our neighbor in Encinitas, California, for most of the last two decades. Her presence among us goes back to 1991 and to my first visit to Japan, a contact I hadn’t had before but have been able to repeat six times since then.
Jerome Rothenberg is a poet, translator, anthologist, and performance artist with over eighty books of poetry and ten assemblages of traditional and contemporary poetry including Technicians of the Sacred and Poems for the Millennium. Books of poetry published since 2009 include Gematria Complete, Concealments & Caprichos, and Retrievals: Uncollected & New Poems 1955–2010. He has until recently been a professor of visual arts and literature at the University of California, San Diego.
Tuning might be the figure best suited to joining this pair of apparently incongruous texts, tuning in the sense defined by David Antin as “a negotiated concord or agreement based on vernacular physical actions with visible outcomes like walking together,” as opposed to understanding, which is predicated, Antin contends, “on a geometrical notion of congruence.”
Jennifer Scappettone is the author of From Dame Quickly (2009) and of several chapbooks of poetry. She is completing a critical study titled Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice. She is translator of the forthcoming Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli. She is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at the University of Chicago.
Miriam and I were born in 1949, only a month apart. The world we were born to was deeply marked by then-recent history. Our playgrounds were the rubble fields in the streets and the extended woods between Frankfurt, where I grew up, and Darmstadt, where Miriam grew up, some twenty-five miles apart.
Gertrud Koch teaches cinema studies at the Free University in Berlin. She has published books on Herbert Marcuse and Siegfried Kracauer, feminist film theory, and the representation of Jewish history. She has edited volumes on Holocaust representation, perception, and interaction, and art and film theory. She is currently working on a book about the aesthetics of illusion in film and the other arts.
Ruth Leys starts with accounts that reduce emotion to a few simple states and emphasize the degree to which it is genetically wired (see Ruth Leys, “The Turn to Affect,” Critical Inquiry 37 [Spring 2011]: 434–72). She then argues that other cultural theorists who emphasize the role of affect are driven in this direction, too, even when they wish to avoid such a trajectory. Much of the argument revolves around the charge of “anti-intentionalism” against us. Because of limitations of space, my response concentrates on my own thinking in this domain, though I suggest some lines of connection to other theories of affect. I will not always try to unpack Leys’s views but will focus more on where mine deviate from her account of them.
William E. Connolly is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches political theory. His most recent books are A World of Becoming (2011); Capitalism and Christianity, American Style (2008); and Pluralism (2005). He is currently working on the ecology of late modern capitalism.
William Connolly is in error when he remarks that I begin my article with a discussion of scientific accounts that reduce the emotions to a few genetically wired categories and that I suggest that the cultural theorists who are interested in affect are driven in the same reductive direction (William E. Connolly, “The Complexity of Intention,” Critical Inquiry 37 [Summer 2011]: 792–99).
Ruth Leys is Henry Wiesenfeld Professor of the Humanities in the Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University. She works on the history of the human sciences, with a special focus on the history of the neurosciences, psychoanalysis, and psychiatry. Her recent publications include Trauma: A Genealogy (2000) and From Shame to Guilt: Auschwitz and After (2007). She is currently writing a book on the history of theoretical and experimental approaches to emotion and affect from the 1960s to the present.
In a recent article, Saba Mahmood has presented an intriguing account of what was at stake morally and emotionally for a large number of Muslims in the Danish cartoon controversy (Saba Mahmood, “Religious Reason and Secular Affect: An Incommensurable Divide?” Critical Inquiry 35 [Summer 2009]: 836–62). In doing so, she offers a framework for thinking about such instances that takes the place of accounts that portray the conflict as one between a liberal, secular commitment to free speech and a religious commitment to combating blasphemy.
Andrew F. March is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale University. He is the author of Islam and Liberal Citizenship (2009). He is presently at work on research related to speech crimes in Islamic legal and moral thought and the Islamic intellectual response to secularism in twentieth- and twenty-first-century legal and theological discourses.