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Auden's O

The Loss of One's Sovereignty in the Making of Nothing

Andrew W. Hass

Publication Year: 2013

Explores the rise of the idea of nothing in Western modernity and how its figuration is transforming and offering new possibilities.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-x

A book of this ambition and breadth does not come together—if it comes together at all—without the thoughts, input, and support of a great number of people. Many names are now lost to the process of thinking on so many different levels and over such a length of time. But some continue...

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pp. xi-xvi

Parmenides, the Eleatic philosopher predating Socrates, handed this famous circularity to the West. From nothing comes nothing. Or as Parmenides said more tautologically, nothing is not. This seems patently clear, at least in terms of basic logic. But the idea keeps returning, keeps haunting us, as if...

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Chapter O

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pp. 1-22

The great Renaissance painter Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) is said to have won a Vatican contract from Pope Benedictus XII by submitting nothing more than a hand‑drawn circle, supposedly perfect in its execution. The “O of Giotto,” as it became famously known, has since become the stuff...

Part One: From Religion and Philosophy to Artifice

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One: The Sovereignty of One

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pp. 25-66

If one, or One, can be operating in something as unlikely as a drawn O, at least in Giotto’s case, then the prevalence of One as a ruling paradigm is surely more extensive than what first meets the eye. How do we uncover this prevalence, especially within the vast history that constitutes the West and its thinking? Let us begin in a less lofty, even more unlikely place, to...

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Two: The Revolutions of O

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pp. 67-102

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” So goes one of the most famous lines in literature. But in all the recitations, the repetitions, the parodies, the lampoons, does any of us take note of the opening “O”? Why should we? As an interjection, it intensifies the cry for Romeo. Juliet pines...

Part Two: Poesis' Figure-- The Making of O

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Three: Shakespeare’s Eye of the Storm

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pp. 105-120

One of the attendant symbols of Lear’s emasculated sovereignty in the first half of King Lear is his retinue, that band of slack men whose raucous antics reflect the waning control of the king to whom they have remained in service. When the Fool calls Lear an “O without a figure,” a “nothing”...

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Four: Reflections of Auden

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pp. 121-158

W. H. Auden (1907–1973) is sometimes considered the last of the “great English poets,” before poetry left the center of civic activity altogether and devolved into a cottage industry of private practitioners and specialist academics. By “great” here is meant a poet who approached poetry still as a...

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FIVE: The Empty Middle

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pp. 159-196

In the beginning, there may have been origin, but in trying to re‑present that origin, in the beginning, we lose it. This is why, in coming back to the beginning in the circle that is O, we do not return to a strictly historical origin, an origin that was prior, and therefore primary. Instead, we retrace...

Part Three: Looking After O

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Six: The Remaking of Philosophy and Religion

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pp. 199-252

We began with a history in which philosophy and religion, as proprietors of the One, with its long and fruitful reign in Western constructions of reality, held a distinct advantage over art in ordering how we conceptualize the cosmos (or later, the universe) and our human position within it. Theories...

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Seven: The Future of O?

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pp. 253-266

In the ubiquity of the O, how does one move forward (again)? This is the question that repeats itself upon the horizon of our present world. For if, as I have been contending, the O, in its elliptical trajectory through the twentieth century, a trajectory that is, as we have now seen, a circuit, has...

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Another Epicycle

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pp. 267-270

This book could have been written so differently. The O takes many forms by definition, and we could have rendered a very different scenario, a very different story line, a very different set of players and a very different protagonist. We might have reshaped the argument as a phenomenology of O, at...


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pp. 271-300

Bibliography of Cited Works

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pp. 301-310


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pp. 311-328

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438448336
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438448312

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 859536271
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Auden's O

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Postmodernism.
  • Hermeneutics -- Philosophy.
  • Nothing (Philosophy) in literature.
  • Nothing (Philosophy).
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