Faculty Books

The Philosopher’s Desire

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This book is about interpretation as it pertains to literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. It argues against certain trends of thought that claim we should do without interpretation by demonstrating that interpretation, as described by psychoanalysis, is already a fundamental aspect of all human experience. Egginton examines the idea of interpretation developed by Freud; how that notion was in turn changed by Lacan; the debate around psychoanalytic interpretation staged by philosophers like Deleuze and Derrida; and finally how a psychoanalytic notion of interpretation is necessary for even the most basic experience of consciousness.

Eric Rohmer

Few filmmakers have taken the principle of the “talking picture” so far as Eric Rohmer, the internationally renowned director of the Moral Tales, Comedies and Proverbs, and Tales of the Four Seasons cycles. Occasionally dismissed as precious or overly literary, Rohmer’s features may leave the impression that there is more to listen to than to look at. Yet as the secretive director (b. Maurice Schérer in 1920) points out, dialogue is no less engaging than the best gunfights, and if his characters prefer discussing love to making it, they are no less the “heroes” of the stories they tell.

Charges of political conservatism aside, the author of My Night at Maud’s, Summer and such period films as Perceval and the all-digital The Lady and the Duke emerges —like Hitchcock before him—as a singular inventor of cinematic forms. This critical overview, which contains an extensive bibliography and a filmography, will appeal to students of film studies, French studies, and enthusiasts.

A Wrinkle in History

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The application paradigm of literary studies, in which one spices up a text with fashionable theory, represents the bankrupt extreme of theoretical tendencies, while the denigration of theory in the name of historical accuracy at times covers for a simple and lamentable lack of anything interesting to say. To paraphrase (if not to bastardize) Kant, theory without history is blind, and history without theory is stupid.

The Discourse of Nature in the Poetry of Paul Celan: The Unnatural World

Paul Celan has long been regarded as the most important European poet after 1945 but also the most difficult owing to the numerous references in his work to his personal history and to a cultural heritage spanning many disciplines, centuries, and languages. In this insightful study, Rochelle Tobias goes a long way to dispelling the obscurity that has surrounded the poet and his work. She shows that the enigmatic images in his poetry have a common source. They are drawn from the disciplines of geology, astrology, and physiology or what could be called the sciences of the earth, the heavens, and the human being. Celan’s poetry borrows from each of these disciplines to create a poetic universe—a universe that attests to what is no longer and projects what is not yet.

This is the unnatural world of Celan’s poetry. It is a world in which time itself takes physical form or is made plastic. Through a series of close readings and philosophical explorations, Tobias reflects on the experience of time encoded and embodied in Celan’s work. She demonstrates that the physical world in his poetry ultimately serves as a showcase for time, which is the most elusive aspect of human experience because it is based nowhere but in the mind. Tobias’s probing interpretations present a new model for understanding Celan’s work from the early elegiac poems to the later cryptic texts.

An interdisciplinary project, the study combines readings of Celan’s poetry with discussions of ancient and modern science, mystical cosmology, and twentieth-century literature and thought. Tobias’s original approach to Celan illuminates his complex verse and contributes significantly to the theory of metaphor as it applies to modern verse.

Cuba and the Tempest: Literature and Cinema in the Time of Diaspora

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In an analysis of Cuban literature inside and outside the country’s borders, Eduardo Gonzalez looks closely at the work of three of the most important contemporary Cuban authors to write in the post-1959 diaspora: Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929-2005), who left Cuba for good in 1965 and established himself in London; Antonio Benitez-Rojo (1931-2005), who settled in the United States; and Leonardo Padura Fuentes (b. 1955), who still lives and writes in Cuba. Gonzalez places the three Cuban writers in conversation with artists and thinkers from British and American literature, anthropology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and cinema, highlighting the positive experiences of exile and wandering that appear in their work.

Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory

The body as an object of critical study dominates disciplines across the humanities to such an extent that a new discipline has emerged: body criticism. In Getting Under the Skin, Bernadette Wegenstein traces contemporary body discourse in philosophy and cultural studies to its roots in 20th-century thought—showing how psychoanalysis, phenomenology, cognitive science, and feminist theory contributed to a new body concept—and studies the millennial body in performance art, popular culture, new media arts, and architecture. Wegenstein shows how the concept of bodily fragmentation has been in circulation since the 16th century’s investigation of anatomy. The history of the body-in-pieces, she argues, is a history of a struggling relationship between two concepts of the body—as fragmented and as holistic. Wegenstein shows that by the 20th century these two apparently contradictory movements were integrated; both fragmentation and holism, she argues, are indispensable modes of imagining and configuring the body. The history of the body, therefore, is a history of mediation; but it was not until the turn of the 21st century and the digital revolution that the body was best able to show its mediality.

After examining key concepts in body criticism, Wegenstein looks at the body as “raw material” in 20th-century performance art, medical techniques for visualizing the human body, and strategies in popular culture for “getting under the skin” with images of freely floating body parts. Her analysis of current trends in architecture and new media art demonstrates the deep connection of body criticism to media criticism. In this approach to body criticism, the body no longer stands in for something else—the medium has become the body.

Humanism and Creativity in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Ronald G. Witt

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This volume comprises original contributions from 17 scholars whose work and careers Ronald Witt has touched in myriad ways. Intellectual, social, and political historians, a historian of philosophy and an art historian: specialists in various temporal and geographical regions of the Renaissance world here address specific topics reflecting some of the major themes that have woven their way through Ronald Witt’s intellectual cursus. While some essays offer fresh readings of canonical texts and explore previously unnoticed lines of filiation among them, others present “discoveries,” including a hitherto “lost” text and overlooked manuscripts that are here edited for the first time. Engagement with little-known material reflects another of Witt’s distinguishing characteristics: a passion for original sources. The essays are gathered under three rubrics: “Politics and the Revival of Antiquity”; “Humanism, Religion, and Moral Philosophy”; and “Erudition and Innovation.”

Mémoires du quotidien: les lieux de Perec

Surveying his own career in 1978 for the purposes of a short essay entitled “Notes sur ce que je cherche,” Georges Perec suggested that his work was animated by four major impulses. First, a sociological impulse, a will to examine everyday life; second, an autobiographical current; third, a ludic bent; and finally, an inclination toward narrativity, a desire to write the kind of books that one reads flat out on one’s bed. Even a casual reader of Perec will appreciate that those categories are not airtight, and that there is quite a bit of backing-and-forthing among them in the writer’s production. Nonetheless, they make a good deal of sense when they are taken to describe general directions in Perec’s writing. Among those four principal inclinations, the first has suffered with regard to the latter three in critical considerations of Perec since his death in 1982. In Mémoires du quotidien, Derek Schilling seeks to redress that, seeking also to recontextualize Perec’s work as an important link in a sustained debate on the nature of the quotidian in the second half of the twentieth century.

Novelas Ejemplares I

Las Novelas ejemplares publicadas en 1613 constituyen, segun indica el propio autor, el primer ejemplo de relato corto en la literatura castellana, de acuerdo con el significado en esa epoca de la palabra “novela.” Esta edicion sigue la edicion principe de Juan de la Cuesta y corrige las posibles erratas.

Perversity and Ethics

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William Egginton argues that the notion of the ethical cannot be understood outside of its relation to perversity—that is, the impulse to do what one knows and feels is wrong. The allure of the perverse, moreover, should not be understood as merely the necessary obverse of ethically motivated behavior; rather, from the perspective of a psychoanalytic understanding of the ethical, the two drives are structurally identical. This discovery leads the author to engagements with deconstructive thought and with contemporary gender theory. In the first, he shows that the insistent resurgence of the ethical fault-line inevitably drives even the most stalwart atheism to a theological moment. In the second, he argues that while “female philosophy” has successfully repudiated the subject-centered exceptionalism of “male philosophy,” it is precisely to the extent that it is understood to offer a kind of release from the perversity of ethics that it must fail as ethical utterances.