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Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature

Jorg Kreienbrock

Publication Year: 2012

Why do humans get angry with objects? Why is it that a malfunctioning computer, a broken tool, or a fallen glass causes an outbreak of fury? How is it possible to speak of an inanimate object's recalcitrance, obstinacy, or even malice? When things assume a will of their own and seem to act out against human desires and wishes rather than disappear into automatic, unconscious functionality, the breakdown is experienced not as something neutral but affectively--as rage or as outbursts of laughter. Such emotions are always psychosocial: public, rhetorically performed, and therefore irreducible to a "private" feeling. By investigating the minutest details of life among dysfunctional household items through the discourses of philosophy and science, as well as in literary works by Laurence Sterne, Jean Paul, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, and Heimito von Doderer, Kreienbrock reconsiders the modern bourgeois poetics that render things the way we know and suffer them.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. viii

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pp. ix

The writing of this book profited immensely from conversations with my friends and colleagues Michal Ginsburg, Marcus Moseley, Helmut Müller-Sievers, Rainer Rumold, Thomas Schestag, Samuel Weber, and Kirk Wetters. Peter Fenves should receive special recognition. Without his valuable...

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pp. 1-21

This study focuses on the obstinate obtrusiveness of what Martin Heidegger calls Zeug, a recalcitrant term that so thoroughly defies translation that only colloquial terms give some handle on what Heidegger is after. Often translated by “equipment,” the term is probably better understood...

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One “When Things Move upon Bad Hinges”

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pp. 22-66

Laurence Sterne’s novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1767, describes the life of its protagonist as constantly threatened by accidents. “I have been the continual sport of what the world calls Fortune,” Tristram exclaims; “...

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Two Annoying Bagatelles

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pp. 67-121

In the fourth part of Truth and Fiction (Dichtung und Wahrheit), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe discusses the relationship between inspiration and the process of writing: I therefore often wished, like one of my predecessors, to get me a leather jerkin made, and to accustom myself...

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Three Malicious Objects

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pp. 122-171

On November 29, 1879, the British satirical magazine Punch reported on a recently published article by the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Theodor Vischer. Earlier that month “Herr Vischer, an eminent authority on Art and Aesthetics,” appalled by the obnoxious behavior of a fellow traveler...

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Four Igniting Anger

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pp. 172-224

Heimito von Doderer’s 1962 novel The Merowingians or The Total Family (Die Merowinger oder die totale Familie) begins with a scene in the clinical practice of the psychiatrist Professor Dr. Horn. The patient, Dr. Bachmeyer, describes his ailment: “Rage, Professor. I suffer heavy attacks of...

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pp. 225-244

Around 1900, following Julius Robert Mayer’s research on the laws of thermodynamics and his later discovery of processes of ignition, the German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald developed a general theory of energetics. It broadened...


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pp. 245-279


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pp. 279-304

inde x

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pp. 305

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823245284
Print-ISBN-10: 0823245284

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text