In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

B o o k R ev iew s duction Bennington worries that a book “ which aims to ape its object” runs the risk of seeming both “ absolutely modest . . . and absolutely immodest” (p. 4). This formulation of an alternative seems to me symptomatic of Bennington’s problem. Lyotard has con­ sistently pushed philosophical speculation to border zones which are potentially productive for a variety of disciplines but resistant to generalization. His work, at this point in time, calls not so much for summary and assessment as for application and testing. Bennington’s study is especially valuable in pointing the way for more specific and strategic approaches. A l e x a n d e r G e l l e y The University o f California, Irvine David Carroll. P a r a e s t h e t ic s : F o u c a u l t , Ly o t a r d , D e r r id a . New York and London: Routledge, 1989 (Methuen 1987). P p . 219. David Carroll’s Paraesthetics is written as a qualified defense of theory at a time when, in his words, “ the theoretical advances of the last two decades are more and more often dis­ torted, blindly attacked, or simply dismissed” (xi). Carroll hopes to counter the current rage “ against theory” and, more specifically, the many forms of theoretical “ reactivity” one finds both within and outside the academy. Hence his rationale for choosing to focus on Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida in that their work “ can be considered critical . . . pre­ cisely in its search for alternatives to theoretical orthodoxies and dogmatisms” (xii). Carroll coins the term “ paraesthetics” to designate his intent to explore the crucial tension between the aesthetic and the extra-aesthetic in these three thinkers, in order to show how each of them attempts “ to push the question of art beyond itself and its theoretical representation” (xiv). After an initial chapter on Nietzsche as a precursor of paraesthetics, Carroll devotes two chapters to retracing in Foucault several models of critique that comprise the phases of a career waged against dogmatism and romantic criticism. The focus in this book is on early Foucault and the importance of “ m ad” thought in relation to “ sanity” and the normative rules of dominant cultures. Carroll also discusses the “ transgressive,” risk-taking nature of Foucault’s later work on sexuality, and particularly Foucault’s challenges to the separation of theory and aesthetics in a “ disruptive, critical paraesthetics” in which he exposed “ the repeated play between limit and excess that makes the best of his work so powerful” (129). Carroll highlights Foucault as a case in point of the anti-dogmatic intellectual who deployed the rhetoric of crisis and rupture as a strategy against theoretical reactivity. In two chapters on Lyotard, Carroll demonstrates at some length how the aesthetic and theoretical dimensions of culture in any case cannot be maintained as separate—as many conservative detractors of theory advance—and how, in fact, theory and figuration merge in the “ aesthetic . . . to constitute for Lyotard both the privileged space of all critical activ­ ity and the model for all unrestricted affirmation and radical socio-political transforma­ tion” (24). The figurative and discursive dimensions of texts, in a manner often subversive of cultural norms, are always influencing and shaping each other. “ At times,” Carroll adds, Lyotard goes so far as to give “ the impression that it is possible to move, that he, in fact, has effectively moved beyond the limitations of all forms of criticism or outside the restrictions of the theoretical in general” (50-51). But Carroll ultimately foregrounds Lyotard’s “ struggle with and against theory and not the proposed resolution or transcen­ dence. . .” (51). Through Lyotard, Carroll clearly establishes the need for a renewed appre­ VOL. XXXI, NO. 1 171 L ’E s pr it C r éa te u r ciation of the aesthetic through an understanding of its theoretical and ideological impact, and the concomitant deepening of theory through an understanding of its aesthetic and rhetorical features—hence the coinage of “ paraesthetics.” Then, in Derrida’s work, Carroll locates an ambitious and wide-ranging investigation of these aesthetic-theoretical interactions. While Derrida considers these...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 171-172
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.