Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative
Publication Year: 2014
For a half century, the American intellectual Fredric Jameson has been a driving force in literary and cultural theory. In Periodizing Jameson, Phillip E. Wegner builds upon Jameson’s unique dialectical method to demonstrate the value of Jameson’s tools—periodization, the fourfold hermeneutic, and the Greimasian semiotic square, among others—and to develop virtuoso readings of Jameson’s own work and the history of the contemporary American university in which it unfolds.
Wegner shows how Jameson’s work intervenes in particular social, cultural, and political situations, using his scholarship both to develop original explorations of nineteenth-century fiction, popular films, and other promiment theorists, and to examine the changing fortunes of theory itself. In this way, Periodizing Jameson casts new light on the potential of and challenges to humanist intellectual work in the present.
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph
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From 1987 until 1993, I had the privilege to study in Duke University’s Graduate Program in Literature (referred to by us in those days as the GPL). There I had the opportunity to learn from a rare group of scholars and teachers—Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Michael Moses, Susan Willis, Toril Moi, Frank Lentricchia, Stanley Fish, Alice Kaplan, Linda Orr, Annabel...
Preface: To Name the System
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This observation concerning the difficulty of dialectical writing, reading, and thinking—the three understood here as inseparable—was first offered by Fredric Jameson in his early book Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (1971).1 It is an equally apt description of the challenges many readers face when encountering...
Introduction: Betraying Jameson
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Caveat lector: this book will offer neither a survey of the work of Fredric Jameson “nor even an introduction to it (always supposing such a thing was possible in the first place).”1 Rather, in the pages that follow, the book’s argument unfolds in terms of what Alain Badiou calls a fidelity to the truth of Jameson’s project, thinking through and along with...
Part I. Mediations; or, The Triumph of Theory
1. The Return of Narrative (1960s)
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Jameson opens his professional intellectual career and the decade of the 1960s with the publication of Sartre: The Origins of a Style (1961), a revision of the dissertation he completed while a doctoral student at Yale University. In this first book, Jameson inaugurates an engagement with a group of twentieth century intellectuals that will continue into his most...
2. Theoretical Modernisms (1970s)
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Marxism and Form concludes with an extended meditation entitled “Towards Dialectical Criticism.” Jameson opens it by stating that his goal is to develop a “phenomenological description of dialectical criticism,” one that does not “tell” what such a criticism is—and again the resonances of Lukács’s critique of naturalism are evident here—“so...
3. Symptomologies and Intimations of the Global (1980s–1990s)
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The same landmark volume, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (1983), that reprints Said’s essay also first publishes a work that signals a dramatic turn in Jameson’s intellectual program. Entitled “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” this short essay, originally presented in 1982 as a Whitney Museum Lecture, represents Jameson’s...
Interlude: From the Symbolic to the Real
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In this section I explore the implications for a materialist dialectics of A. J. Greimas’s semiotics, and in particular what Jameson has described as its “supreme achievement,” Greimas’s “semiotic square.”1 My approach challenges what has become a commonplace—advanced, for example, in both Paul de Man’s classic essay “The Resistance to...
Part II. Untimely Modernisms
4. “The Point Is . . .”: On the Four Conditions of Marxist Cultural Studies
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This chapter assesses the contribution that Jameson makes to the traditions of Marxist cultural studies by way of a mapping of the contours of the Marxist problematic more generally. I hope ultimately to show how Jameson’s work, more through its examples than its incitements, makes an appeal for contemporary Marxist cultural criticism to “remove the...
5. Unfinished Business: On the Dialectic of the University in Late Capitalism
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A significant trope that appears throughout Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic (2009) is that of the “unfinished.” Valences is itself something of an unfinished book, a claim that may come as a surprise to many of the book’s readers. At 625 pages, it is Jameson’s longest book yet, nearly 200 pages longer than his two prior books, Archaeologies of the Future...
6. Other Modernisms: On the Desire Called Utopia
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In the conclusion to Postmodernism, Jameson offers the following observation concerning the “Sartrean coinage” totalization: “ ‘From time to time,’ Sartre says somewhere, ‘you make a partial summing up.’ The summing up, from a perspective or point of view, as partial as it must be, marks the project of totalization as the response to...
Afterword: Representing Jameson
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I opened this book with a claim that Jameson advances in Marxism and Form concerning the “peculiar difficulty of dialectical writing,” which, he maintains, lies “in its holistic, ‘totalizing’ character: as though you could not say any one thing until you had first said everything; as though with each new idea you were bound to recapitulate the entire...
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Other Works in the Series
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Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2014