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Artifacts of Thinking

Reading Hannah Arendt's Denktagebuch

Edited by Roger Berkowitz, and Ian Storey

Artifacts of Thinking: Reading Arendt’s Denktagebuch offers a path through Hannah Arendt’s recently published Denktagebuch, or “Book of Thoughts.” In this book a number of innovative Arendt scholars come together to ask how we should think about these remarkable writings in the context of Arendt’s published writing and broader political thinking. Unique in its form, the Denktagebuch offers brilliant insights into Arendt’s practice of thinking and writing. Artifacts of Thinking provides an introduction to the Denktagebuch as well as a glimpse of these fascinating but untranslated fragments that reveal not only Arendt’s understanding of “the life of the mind,” but her true lived experience of it.

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Artists' SoHo

49 Episodes of Intimate History

Richard Kostelanetz

During the 1960s AND 1970S in New York City, young artists exploited an industrial wasteland to create spacious studios where they lived and worked, redefining the Manhattan area just South of Houston Street. Fueled not by city planning schemes but by word-of-mouth recommendations, the area soon grew to become a world-class center for artistic creation—indeed the largest urban artists’ colony ever in America, let alone the world. _x000B_Richard Kostelanetz’s Artists’ SoHo examines not only why the artists came and how they accomplished what they did, but also delves into the lives and works of some of the most creative personalities who lived there during that period, including Nam June Paik, Robert Wilson, Meredith Monk, Richard Foreman, Hannah Wilke, George Macuinas, and Alan Suicide. Gallerists followed the artists in fashioning themselves, their homes, their buildings, and even their streets into transiently prominent exhibition and performance spaces. _x000B_ _x000B_SoHo pioneer Richard Kostelanetz’s extensively researched Intimate History is framed within a personal memoir that unearths myriad perspectives: social and cultural history history, the changing rules for residency and ownership, the ethos of the community, the physical layouts of the lofts, the types of art produced, venues that opened and closed, the daily rhythm, and the graduate invasion of “new people”. SoHo also explores how and why this fertile bohemia couldn’t last forever. As wealthier people paid higher prices, galleries left, younger artists settled elsewhere, and the neighborhood became a “SoHo Mall” of trendy stores and restaurants._x000B_ _x000B_Compelling and often humorous, ARTISTS' SoHo provides an analysis of a remarkable neighborhood that transformed the art and culture of New York City over the last five decades. _x000B_

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As Bad as They Say?

Three Decades of Teaching in the Bronx

Janet Grossbach Mayer

Rundown, vermin-infested buildings. rigid, slow-to-react bureaucratic systems. Children from broken homes and declining communities. How can a teacher succeed? How does a student not only survive but also come to thrive? It can happen, and As Bad as They Say? tells the heroic stories of Janet Mayer's students during her 33-year tenure as a Bronx high school teacher.In 1995, Janet Mayer's students began a pen-pal exchange with South African teenagers who, under apartheid, had been denied an education; almost uniformly, the South Africans asked, Is the Bronx as bad as they say? This dedicated teacher promised those students and all future ones that she would write a book to help change the stereotypical image of Bronx students and show that, in spite of overwhelming obstacles, they are outstanding young people, capable of the highest achievements.She walks the reader through the decrepit school building, describing in graphic detail the deplorable physical conditions that students and faculty navigate daily. Then, in eight chapters we meet eight amazing young people, a small sample of the more than 14,000 students the writer has felt honored to teach.She describes her own Bronx roots and the powerful influences that made her such a determined teacher. Finally, the veteran teacher sounds the alarm to stop the corruption and degradation of public education in the guise of what are euphemistically labeled reforms (No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top). She also expresses optimism that public education and our democracy can still be saved, urgently calling on all to become involved and help save our schools.

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Aspects of Alterity

Levinas, Marcel, and the Contemporary Debate

Brian Treanor

Every other is truly other, but no other is wholly other.This is the claim that Aspects of Alterity defends. Taking up the question of otherness that so fascinates contemporary continental philosophy, this book asks what it means for something or someone to be other than the self. Levinas and those influenced by him point out that the philosophical tradition of the West has generally favored the self at the expense of the other. Such a self-centered perspective never encounters the other qua other, however. In response, postmodern thought insists on the absolute otherness of the other, epitomized by the deconstructive claim every other is wholly other.But absolute otherness generates problems and aporias of its own. This has led some thinkers to reevaluate the notion of relative otherness in light of the postmodern critique, arguing for a chiastic account that does justice to both the alterity and the similitude of the other. These latter two positions-absolute otherness and a rehabilitated account of relative otherness-are the main contenders in the contemporary debate.The philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and Gabriel Marcel provide the point of embarkation for coming to understand the two positions on this question. Levinas and Marcel were contemporaries whose philosophies exhibit remarkably similar concern for the other but nevertheless remain fundamentally incompatible. Thus, these two thinkers provide a striking illustration of both the proximity of and the unbridgeable gap between two accounts of otherness.Aspects of Alterity delves into this debate, first in order understand the issues at stake in these two positions and second to determine which description better accounts for the experience of encountering the other.After a thorough assessment and critique of otherness in Levinas's and Marcel's work, including a discussion of the relationship of ethical alterity to theological assumptions, Aspects of Alterity traces the transmission and development of these two conceptions of otherness. Levinas's version of otherness can be seen in the work of Jacques Derrida and John D. Caputo, while Marcel's understanding of otherness influences the work of Paul Ricoeur and Richard Kearney.Ultimately, Aspects of Alterity makes a case for a hermeneutic account of otherness. Otherness itself is not absolute, but is a chiasm of alterity and similitude. Properly articulated, such an account is capable of addressing the legitimate ethical and epistemological concerns that lead thinkers to construe otherness in absolute terms, but without the absolute aporiasthat accompany such a characterization.

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Asylum Speakers

Caribbean Refugees and Testimonial Discourse

April Shemak

Offering the first interdisciplinary study of refugees in the Caribbean, Central America, and the United States, Asylum Speakers relates current theoretical debates about hospitality and cosmopolitanism to the actual conditions of refugees. In doing so, the author weighs the questions of truth valueassociated with various modes of witnessing to explore the function of testimonial discourse in constructing refugee subjectivity in New World cultural and political formations. By examining literary works by such writers as Edwidge Danticat, Nikl Payen, Kamau Brathwaite, Francisco Goldman, Julia Alvarez, Ivonne Lamazares, and Cecilia Rodr!guez Milans, theoretical work by Jacques Derrida, Edouard Glissant, and Wilson Harris, as well as human rights documents, government documents, photography, and historical studies, Asylum Speakers constructs a complex picture of New World refugees that expands current discussions of diaspora and migration, demonstrating that the peripheral nature of refugee testimonial narratives requires us to reshape the boundaries of U.S. ethnic and postcolonial studies.

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Athens, Still Remains

The Photographs of Jean-Franois Bonhomme

Jacques Derrida

Athens, Still Remains is an extended commentary on a series of photographs of contemporary Athens by the French photographer Jean-Franois Bonhomme. But in Derrida's hands commentary always has a way of unfolding or, better, developing in several unexpected and mutually illuminating directions.First published in French and Greek in 1996, Athens, Still Remains is Derrida's most sustained analysis of the photographic medium in relationship to the history of philosophy and his most personal reflection on that medium. At once photographic analysis, philosophical essay, and autobiographical narrative, Athens, Still Remains presents an original theory of photography and throws a fascinating light on Derrida's life and work.The book begins with a sort of verbal snapshot or aphorism that haunts the entire book: we owe ourselves to death.Reading this phrase through Bonhomme's photographs of both the ruins of ancient Athens and contemporary scenes of a still-living Athens that is also on its way to ruin and death, Derrida interrogates a philosophical tradition that runs from Socrates to Heidegger in which the human-and especially the philosopher-is thought to owe himself to death, to a certain thought of death or comportment with regard to death. Combining philosophical speculations on mourning and death, event and repetition, and time and difference with incisive commentary on Bonhomme's photographs and a narrative of Derrida's 1995 trip to Greece, Athens, Still Remains is one of Derrida's most accessible, personal, and moving works without being, for all that, any less philosophical. As Derrida reminds us, the word photography-an eminently Greek word-means the writing of light,and it brings together today into a single frame contemporary questions about the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction and much older questions about the relationship between light, revelation, and truth-in other words, an entire philosophical tradition that first came to light in the shadow of the Acropolis.

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An Atmospherics of the City

Baudelaire and the Poetics of Noise

Ross Chambers

What happens to poetic beauty when history turns the poet from one who contemplates natural beauty and the sublime to one who attempts to reconcile the practice of art with the hustle and noise of the city? An Atmospherics of the City traces Charles Baudelaire’s evolution from a writer who practices a form of fetishizing aesthetics in which poetry works to beautify the ordinary to one who perceives background noise and disorder—the city’s version of a transcendent atmosphere—as evidence of the malign work of a transcendent god of time, history, and ultimate destruction. Analyzing this shift, particularly as evidenced in Tableaux parisiens and Le Spleen de Paris, Ross Chambers shows how Baudelaire’s disenchantment with the politics of his day and the coincident rise of overpopulation, poverty, and Haussmann’s modernization of Paris influenced the poet’s work to conceive a poetry of allegory, one with the power to alert and disalienate its otherwise inattentive reader whose senses have long been dulled by the din of his environment. Providing a completely new and original understanding of both Baudelaire’s ethics and his aesthetics, Chambers reveals how the shift from themes of the supernatural in Baudelaire to ones of alienation allowed a new way for him to articulate and for his fellow Parisians to comprehend the rapidly changing conditions of the city and, in the process, to invent a “modern beauty” from the realm of suffering and the abject as they embodied forms of urban experience.

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Atopias

Manifesto for a Radical Existentialism

Frédéric Neyrat

This book offers a manifesto for a radical existentialism aiming to regenerate the place of the outside that contemporary theory underestimates. Neyrat calls this outside “atopia”: not utopia, a dreamt place out of the world where everything would be perfect, but atopia, the internal outside that is at the core of every being. Atopia is neither an object that an “object-oriented ontology” would be able to formalize, nor the matter that “new materialisms” could identify. Atopia is what constitutes the existence of any object or subject, its singularity or more precisely its “eccentricity.” Etymologically, to exist means “to be outside” and the book argues that every entity is outside, thrown in the world, wandering without any ontological anchor. In this regard, a radicalized existentialism does not privilege human beings (as Sartre and Heidegger did), but considers existence as a universal condition that concerns every being. It is important to offer a radical existentialism because the current denial of the outside is politically, and aesthetically, damaging. Only an atopian philosophy—a bizarre, extravagant, heretic philosophy—can care for our fear of the outside. For therapeutic element, a radical existentialism favors everything that challenges the compact immanence in which we are trapped, losing capacity to imagine political alternatives. To sustain these alternatives, the book identifies the atopia as a condition of the possibility to break immanence and analyze these breaks in human and animal subjectivity, language, politics and metaphysics.

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The Author-Cat

Clemens's Life in Fiction

Forrest G. Robinson

At the end of his long life, Samuel Clemens felt driven to write a truthful account of what he regarded as the flaws in his character and the errors of his ways. His attempt to tell the unvarnished truth about himself is preserved in nearly 250 autobiographical dictations. In order to encourage complete veracity, he decided from the outset that these would be published only posthumously.Nevertheless, Clemens's autobiography is singularly unrevealing. Forrest G. Robinson argues that, by contrast, it is in his fiction that Clemens most fully-if often inadvertently-reveals himself. He was, he confessed, like a cat who labors in vain to bury the waste that he has left behind. Robinson argues that he wrote out of an enduring need to come to terms with his remembered experiences-not to memorialize the past, but to transform it.By all accounts-including his own-Clemens's special curse was guilt. He was unable to forgive himself for the deaths of those closest to him-from his siblings' death in childhood to the deaths of his own children. Nor could he reconcile himself to his role in the Civil War, his part in the duel that prompted his departure from Virginia City in 1864, and-worst of all-his sense of moral complicity in the crimes of slavery.Tracing the theme of bad faith in all of Clemens's major writing, but with special attention to the late work, Robinson sheds new light on a tormented moral life. His book challenges conventional assumptions about the humorist's personality and creativity, directing attention to what William Dean Howells describes as the depths of a nature whose tragical seriousness broke in the laughter which the unwise took for the whole of him.

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The Banality of Heidegger

Jean-Luc Nancy

Heidegger and Nazism: Ever since the philosopher’s public involvement in state politics in 1933, his name has necessarily been a part of this unsavory couple. After the publication in 2014 of the private Black Notebooks, it is now unambiguously part of another: Heidegger and anti-Semitism. What do we learn from analyzing the anti-Semitism of these private writings, together with its sources and grounds, not only for Heidegger’s thought, but for the history of the West in which this thought is embedded? Jean-Luc Nancy poses these questions with the depth and rigor we would expect from him. In doing so, he does not go lightly on Heidegger, in whom he finds a philosophical and “historial” anti-Semitism, outlining a clash of “peoples” that must at all costs arrive at “another beginning.” If Heidegger’s uncritical acceptance of prejudices and long-debunked myths about “world Jewry” shares in the “banality” evoked by Hannah Arendt, this does nothing to lessen the charge. Nancy’s purpose, however, is not simply to condemn Heidegger but rather to invite us to think something to which the thinker of being remained blind: anti-Semitism as a self-hatred haunting the history of the West—and of Christianity in its drive toward an auto-foundation that would leave behind its origins in Judaism.

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