- IntroductionThe Editors of SubStance
This issue of SubStance is the first since 2010 not dedicated to a specific theme or author; it features ten eclectic essays submitted from different disciplines and countries by well-established as well as emerging scholars. We wish to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of these varia, which illustrate the range of our speculative and critical interests, and to signal directions we anticipate the journal moving in the near future. Beyond its interest in French literature and theory, SubStance has always promoted a dialogue between contemporary theory and a multifaceted outside, an outside where contemporary theory may be used to investigate literary, philosophical, and artistic traditions, movements or historical periods; an outside where theory may be used to conceptualize contemporary cultural issues; an outside, finally, where contemporary theory may venture into hybrid and innovative writing. Exploring hybrid writing with theoretical impact is at the center of our current preoccupations. “Hybrid” writing refers to both media (multimedia and non-linear writing on internet platforms; more below concerning our ongoing reflections about a fourth hybrid print-digital issue and an e-book series) and genre-mixing critical and creative prose, exploring the potential for using fiction within theoretical speculation: not simply writing on fiction but with fiction. In fact, these projects include all possible (or not yet possible) literary modes—a poem, for instance (see below)—as long as this genre-bending writing authentically generates stimulating conceptual frameworks, and is something more than a style, or, rather, truly a style: a creative way to actually address and express ideas or concepts, to push literary thought and thought about literature into new territories.
A brief overview of work in this issue shows the suppleness of theoretical work today and the journal’s continuing commitment to rigorous thought across disciplines. Three articles in the present issue are devoted to contemporary French thinkers, opening new ways of reading their work in relation to different philosophical, literary, and artistic movements and moments. Kir Kuiken offers an intricately argued presentation of Jacques Rancière’s analysis of the break in the Aristotelian system of representation occasioned by Romanticism, and concludes by disclosing a potential paradox in Rancière’s reasoning by which mute speech might actually be the form of “disagreement” that is beyond any founding of [End Page 3] the political (in Rancière’s theory). Kurt Lampe, a Classicist, places Julia Kristeva’s work in dialogue with Stoicism: after elucidating central principles of Stoic thought and Kristeva’s analysis of Stoicism, Lampe develops a cogent critique of the limits of Kristeva’s views and opens a different way to reclaim Stoicism in contemporary theory. Javier Berzal de Dios presents a nuanced art historical analysis of Gilles Deleuze’s references to Renaissance painters that extrapolates Deleuze’s ideas in a richly informed way, while showing the limitations of Deleuze’s views through a brilliant analysis of point, line, and labyrinth.
Several articles in this issue offer close speculative readings, which we have selected because in different, distinct ways they go beyond the all-too-common mechanical application of a chosen theoretical perspective. Jeeshan Gazi provides a fresh analysis of Sigfried Kracauer’s still seminal film theory, pushing past its usual alignment with a Bazinian perspective to a view that cinema provokes a sort of mental recombination through the images it proposes. In a provocative sojourn through Kant, Robert Lehman links the philosopher’s personal notes about his poor eyesight, tendency to be distracted, and intellectual concentration to the interplay in Critique of Pure Reason between the I, as in the “I think,” and the I as in “I can have an intuition of myself.” In his wide-ranging analysis of Maria Irene Fornes’s staging of her challenging play Mud, theater scholar Guy Zimmerman forges interesting connections between tragic form, social crisis, and money, interrogating the neoliberal ideology in the process. Johanna Wagner brings Judith Butler’s work to bear on Lily Bart in Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth in order to propose that the notion of livability informs intelligibility, and then argues that...