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Epochal Discordance

Holderlin's Philosophy of Tragedy

Friedrich Hölderlin must be considered not only a significant poet but also a philosophically important thinker within German Idealism. In both capacities, he was crucially preoccupied with the question of tragedy, yet, surprisingly, this book is the first in English to explore fully his philosophy of tragedy. Focusing on the thought of Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Reiner Schürmann, Véronique M. Fóti discusses the tragic turning in German philosophy that began at the close of the eighteenth century to provide a historical and philosophical context for an engagement with Hölderlin. She goes on to examine the three fragmentary versions of Hölderlin’s own tragedy, The Death of Empedocles, together with related essays, and his interpretation of Sophoclean tragedy. Fóti also addresses the relationship of his character Empedocles to the pre-Socratic philosopher and concludes by examining Heidegger’s dialogue with Hölderlin concerning tragedy and the tragic.

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Farewell to Visual Studies

James Elkins

Each of the five volumes in the Stone Art Theory Institutes series brings together a range of scholars who are not always directly familiar with one another’s work. The outcome of each of these convergences is an extensive and “unpredictable conversation” on knotty and provocative issues about art.

This fifth and final volume in the series focuses on the identity, nature, and future of visual studies, discussing critical questions about its history, objects, and methods. The contributors question the canon of literature of visual studies and the place of visual studies with relation to theories of vision, visuality, epistemology, politics, and art history, giving voice to a variety of inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives. Rather than dismissing visual studies, as its provocative title might suggest, this volume aims to engage a critical discussion of the state of visual studies today, how it might move forward, and what it might leave behind to evolve in productive ways.

The contributors are Emmanuel Alloa, Nell Andrew, Linda Báez Rubí, Martin A. Berger, Hans Dam Christensen, Isabelle Decobecq, Bernhard J. Dotzler, Johanna Drucker, James Elkins, Michele Emmer, Yolaine Escande, Gustav Frank, Theodore Gracyk, Asbjørn Grønstad, Stephan Günzel, Charles W. Haxthausen, Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro, Tom Holert, Kıvanç Kılınç, Charlotte Klonk, Tirza True Latimer, Mark Linder, Sunil Manghani, Anna Notaro, Julia Orell, Mark Reinhardt, Vanessa R. Schwartz, Bernd Stiegler, Øyvind Vågnes, Sjoukje van der Meulen, Terri Weissman, Lisa Zaher, and Marta Zarzycka.

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Fateful Beauty

Aesthetic Environments, Juvenile Development, and Literature, 1860-1960

Douglas Mao

When Oscar Wilde said he had "seen wallpaper which must lead a boy brought up under its influence to a life of crime," his joke played on an idea that has often been taken quite seriously--both in Wilde's day and in our own. In Fateful Beauty, Douglas Mao recovers the lost intellectual, social, and literary history of the belief that the beauty--or ugliness--of the environment in which one is raised influences or even determines one's fate. Weaving together readings in literature, psychology, biology, philosophy, education, child-rearing advice, and interior design, he shows how this idea abetted a dramatic rise in attention to environment in many discourses and in many practices affecting the lives of the young between the late nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth. Through original and detailed analyses of Wilde, Walter Pater, James Joyce, Theodore Dreiser, Rebecca West, and W. H. Auden, Mao shows that English-language writing of the period was informed in crucial but previously unrecognized ways by the possibility that beautiful environments might produce better people. He also reveals how these writers shared concerns about environment, evolution, determinism, freedom, and beauty with scientists and social theorists such as Herbert Spencer, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, and W.H.R. Rivers. In so doing, Mao challenges conventional views of the roles of beauty and the aesthetic in art and life during this time.

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Figures of Simplicity

Sensation and Thinking in Kleist and Melville

A fascinating comparison of the work of Heinrich von Kleist and Herman Melville. Figures of Simplicity explores a unique constellation of figures from philosophy and literature—Heinrich von Kleist, Herman Melville, G. W. Leibniz, and Alexander Baumgarten—in an attempt to recover alternative conceptions of aesthetics and dimensions of thinking lost in the disciplinary narration of aesthetics after Kant. This is done primarily by tracing a variety of “simpletons” that populate the writings of Kleist and Melville. These figures are not entirely ignorant, or stupid, but simple. Their simplicity is a way of thinking; one that author Birgit Mara Kaiser here suggests is affective thinking. Kaiser avers that Kleist and Melville are experimenting in their texts with an affective mode of thinking, and thereby continue, she argues, a key line within eighteenth-century aesthetics: the relation of rationality and sensibility. Through her analyses, she offers an outline of what thinking can look like if we take affectivity into account.

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Five Fictions in Search of Truth

Myra Jehlen

Fiction, far from being the opposite of truth, is wholly bent on finding it out, and writing novels is a way to know the real world as objectively as possible. In Five Fictions in Search of Truth, Myra Jehlen develops this idea through readings of works by Flaubert, James, and Nabokov. She invokes Proust's famous search for lost memory as the exemplary literary process, which strives, whatever its materials, for a true knowledge. In Salammbô, Flaubert digs up Carthage; in The Ambassadors, James plumbs the examined life and touches at its limits; while in Lolita, Nabokov traces a search for truth that becomes a trespass.

In these readings, form and style emerge as fiction's means for taking hold of reality, which is to say that they are as epistemological as they are aesthetic, each one emerging by way of the other. The aesthetic aspects of a literary work are just so many instruments for exploring a subject, and the beauty and pleasure of a work confirm the validity of its account of the world. For Flaubert, famously, a beautiful sentence was proven true by its beauty. James and Nabokov wrote on the same assumption--that form and style were at once the origin and the confirmation of a work's truth.

In Five Fictions in Search of Truth, Jehlen shows, moreover, that fiction's findings are not only about the world but immanent within it. Literature works concretely, through this form, that style, this image, that word, seeking a truth that is equally concrete. Writers write--and readers read--to discover an incarnate, secular knowledge, and in doing so they enact a basic concurrence between literature and science.

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The Fleeting Promise of Art

Adorno's Aesthetic Theory Revisited

by Peter Uwe Hohendahl

A discussion of Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory is bound to look significantly different today than it would have looked when the book was first published in 1970, or when it first appeared in English translation in the 1980s. In The Fleeting Promise of Art, Peter Uwe Hohendahl reexamines Aesthetic Theory along with Adorno’s other writings on aesthetics in light of the unexpected return of the aesthetic to today’s cultural debates.

Is Adorno’s aesthetic theory still relevant today? Hohendahl answers this question with an emphatic yes. As he shows, a careful reading of the work exposes different questions and arguments today than it did in the past. Over the years Adorno’s concern over the fate of art in a late capitalist society has met with everything from suspicion to indifference. In part this could be explained by relative unfamiliarity with the German dialectical tradition in North America. Today’s debate is better informed, more multifaceted, and further removed from the immediate aftermath of the Cold War and of the shadow of postmodernism.

Adorno’s insistence on the radical autonomy of the artwork has much to offer contemporary discussions of art and the aesthetic in search of new responses to the pervasive effects of a neoliberal art market and culture industry. Focusing specifically on Adorno’s engagement with literary works, Hohendahl shows how radically transformative Adorno’s ideas have been and how thoroughly they have shaped current discussions in aesthetics. Among the topics he considers are the role of art in modernism and postmodernism, the truth claims of artworks, the function of the ugly in modern artworks, the precarious value of the literary tradition, and the surprising significance of realism for Adorno.

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Force:A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology

A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology

Christoph Menke

This book reconceives modern aesthetics by reconstructing its genesis in the 18th century, between Baumgarten's Aesthetics and Kant's Critique of Judgment. Force demonstrates that aesthetics, and hence modern philosophy, began twice. On the one hand, Baumgarten's Aesthetics is organized around the new concept of the "subject": as a totality of faculties; an agent defined by capabilities; one who is able. Yet an aesthetics in the Baumgartian manner, as the theory of the sensible faculties of the subject, at once faces a different aesthetics: the aesthetics of force. The latter conceives the aesthetic not as sensible cognition but as a play of expression--propelled by a force that, rather than being exercised like a faculty, does not recognize or represent anything because it is obscure and unconscious: the force of what in humanity is distinct from the subject. The aesthetics of force is thus a thinking of the nature of man: of aesthetic nature as distinct from the culture acquired by practice. It founds an anthropology of difference: between force and faculty, human and subject.

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God after Metaphysics

A Theological Aesthetic

John Panteleimon Manoussakis

While philosophy believes it is impossible to have an experience of God without the senses, theology claims that such an experience is possible, though potentially idolatrous. In this engagingly creative book, John Panteleimon Manoussakis ends the impasse by proposing an aesthetic allowing for a sensuous experience of God that is not subordinated to imposed categories or concepts. Manoussakis draws upon the theological traditions of the Eastern Church, including patristic and liturgical resources, to build a theological aesthetic founded on the inverted gaze of icons, the augmented language of hymns, and the reciprocity of touch. Manoussakis explores how a relational interpretation of being develops a fuller and more meaningful view of the phenomenology of religious experience beyond metaphysics and onto-theology.

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The Harmony of Goodness

Mutuality and Moral Living According to John Duns Scotus

Mary Beth Ingham, C.S.J.

In The Harmony of Goodness, Ingham presents the ethical vision of John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) in an integrated manner, bringing together aspects of virtue, moral reasoning, free choice, rational judgment, and spirituality as parts of a whole human life. This work examines the ethical thought of Scotus according to his notion of mutuality or relationship. This study brings to light Scotus’ integrated vision of human moral living.

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Heidegger, Holderlin, and the Subject of Poetic Language

Toward a New Poetics of Dasein

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei

Heidegger's interpretations of the poetry of Hlderlin are central to Heidegger's later philosophy and have determined the mainstream reception of Hlderlin's poetry. Gosetti-Ferencei argues that Heidegger has overlooked central elements in Hlderlin's poetics, such as a Kantian understanding of aesthetic subjectivity and a commitment to Enlightenment ideals. These elements, she argues, resist the more politically distressing aspects of Heidegger's interpretations, including Heidegger's nationalist valorization of the German language and sense of nationhood, or Heimat.In the context of Hlderlin's poetics of alienation, exile, and wandering, Gosetti-Ferencei draws a different model of poetic subjectivity, which engages Heidegger's later philosophy of Gelassenheit, calmness, or letting be. In so doing, she is able to pose a phenomenologically sensitive theory of poetic language and a new poetics of Dasein,or being there.

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