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Northwestern University Press
The Rhetoric of Failure and the Making of American Modernism
From Herman Melville's claim that "failure is the true test of greatness" to Henry Adams's self-identification with the "mortifying failure in [his] long education" and William Faulkner's eagerness to be judged by his "splendid failure to do the impossible," the rhetoric of failure has served as a master trope of modernist American literary expression. David Ball's magisterial study addresses the fundamental questions of language, meaning, and authority that run counter to well-rehearsed claims of American innocence and positivity, beginning with the American Renaissance and extending into modernist and contemporary literature. The rhetoric of failure was used at various times to engage artistic ambition, the arrival of advanced capitalism, and a rapidly changing culture, not to mention sheer exhaustion. False Starts locates a lively narrative running through American literature that consequently queries assumptions about the development of modernism in the United States.
Modernist thinkers once presumed a progressive secularity, with the novel replacing religious texts as society’s moral epics. Yet religion—beginning with the Iranian revolution of 1979, through the collapse of communism, and culminating in the singular rupture of September 11, 2001—has not retreated quietly out of sight.
In Fiction Beyond Secularism, Justin Neuman argues that contemporary novelists who are most commonly identified as antireligious—among them Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Nadine Gordimer, Haruki Murakami, and J. M. Coetzee—have defied assumptions and have instead written some of the most trenchant critiques of secular ideologies, as well as the most exciting and rigorous inquiries into the legacies of the religious imagination. As a result, many readers (or nonreaders) on either side of the religious divide neglect the insights of works like The Satanic Verses, Disgrace, and Snow. Fiction Beyond Secularism serves as a timely corrective.
Conversion, Torture, and Truth in the Luso-Hispanic Atlantic
The practices of interrogation, torture, and confession have resurfaced in public debates since the early 2000s following human rights abuses around the globe. Yet discussion of torture has remained restricted to three principal fields: the legal, the pragmatic, and the moral, eclipsing the less immediate but vital question of what torture does.Figurative Inquisitions seeks to correct this lacuna by approaching the question of torture from a literary vantage point.
This book investigates the uncanny presence of the Inquisition and marranismo (crypto-Judaism) in modern literature, theater, and film from Mexico, Brazil, and Portugal. Through a critique of fictional scenes of interrogation, it underscores the vital role of the literary in deconstructing the relation between torture and truth. Figurative Inquisitions traces the contours of a relationship among aesthetics, ethics, and politics in an account of the "Inquisitional logic" that continues to haunt contemporary political forms. In so doing, the book offers a unique humanistic perspective on current torture debates.
Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth-Century Russian Women's Prose
Though among the most prominent writers in Russia in the mid nineteenth century, Evgeniia Tur (1815 92) and V. Krestovskii (1820? 89) are now little known. By looking in depth at these writers, their work, and their historical and aesthetic significance, Jehanne M. Gheith shows how taking women's writings into account transforms traditional understandings of the field of nineteenth century Russian literature. Gheith's analysis of these writers' biographies, prose, and criticism intervenes in debates about the Russian literary tradition in general, Russian women's writing in particular, and feminist criticism on female authors and authority as it has largely been developed in and for Western contexts.
Alphonso Lingis’s singular works of philosophy are not so much written as performed, and in The First Person Singular the performance is characteristically brilliant, a consummate act of philosophical reckoning. Lingis’s subject here, aptly enough, is the subject itself, understood not as consciousness but as embodied, impassioned, active being. His book is, at the same time, an elegant cultural analysis of how subjectivity is differently and collectively understood, invested, and situated.
Idealism without Idealism
For Badiou serves both as an introduction to the influential French philosopher Alain Badiou’s thought and as an in-depth examination of his work. Ruda begins with a thorough and clear outline of the sometimes difficult main tenets of Badiou’s philosophy. He then traces the philosophers throughout Western thought who have influenced Badiou’s project—especially Plato, Descartes, Hegel, and Marx—and on whose work Badiou has developed his provocative philosophy. Ruda draws from Badiou’s oeuvre a series of directives with regard to renewing philosophy for the twenty-first century. For Badiou continues the interrogations of its subject and raises new materialistic and dialectical questions for the next generation of engaged philosophers.
Eastern Europe, Literature, Postimperial Difference
How are we to read the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall? Form and Instability brings notions of figuration and translation to bear on the post-1989 condition. "Eastern Europe" in this book is more than a territory. Marked by belatedness and untimely remainders, it is an unstable object that is continually misapprehended. From the intersection of comparative literature, area studies, and literary theory, Anita Starosta considers the epistemological and aesthetic consequences of the disappearance of the Second World. Literature here becomes a critical lens in its own right—both object and method, it confronts us with the rhetorical dimension of language and undermines the ideological and hermeneutic coherence of established categories. In original readings of Joseph Conrad and Witold Gombrowicz, among other twentieth-century writers, Form and Instability unsettles cultural boundaries as we know them.
Child Murder and Atonement in Modern American Fiction
The Forsaken Son engages the provocative coincidence of the vocabularies of infanticide and Christianity, specifically atonement theology, in six modern American novels: Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away, the first two installments of John Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love, and Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark.
Christian atonement theology explains why God lets His son be crucified. Yet in recent years, as an increasing number of scholars have come to reject that explanation, the cross reverts from saving grace to trauma—or even crime. More bluntly, without atonement, the cross may be a filicide, in which God forces his son to die for no apparent reason. Pederson argues that the novels about child murder mentioned above likewise give voice to modern skepticism about traditional atonement theology.
In her book, Oksala shows that the arguments for the ineliminability of violence from the political are often based on excessively broad, ontological conceptions of violence distinct from its concrete and physical meaning and, on the other hand, on a restrictively narrow and empirical understanding of politics as the realm of conventional political institutions.
An Introduction to the Philosophical Life
In his renowned courses at the Collège de France from 1982 to 1984, Michel Foucault devoted his lectures to meticulous readings and interpretations of the works of Plato, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, among others. In this his aim was not, Edward F. McGushin contends, to develop a new knowledge of the history of philosophy; rather, it was to let himself be transformed by the very activity of thinking. Thus, this work shows us Foucault in the last phase of his life in the act of becoming a philosopher. Here we see how his encounter with ancient philosophy allowed him to experience the practice of philosophy as, to paraphrase Nietzsche, a way of becoming who one is: the work of self formation that the Greeks called askésis.