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The UberReader

The UberReader: Selected Works of Avital Ronell

Edited by Diane Davis
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The UberReader
    Book Description:

    With courage and humor, Avital Ronell takes thinking and writing into wild and dangerous places. The ÃœberReader introduces her groundbreaking work on drug rhetoric, technology's fatal attractions, and the odd prestige of stupidity. The ÃœberReader includes previously uncollected essays, selections from her books, and some of her most powerful public talks. _x000B__x000B_An extensive introduction by Diane Davis surveys and situates Ronell's hard-hitting work, and recalls some of the most important critical responses it has provoked. _x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09229-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxxvi)
    Diane Davis

    Gustave Flaubert once said “the worth of a book can be judged by the strength of the punches it gives and the length of time it takes you to recover from them.”¹ According to this calculus of evaluation, typically reserved for literary texts, Avital Ronell’s exceptionally hard hitters are works of inestimable value. It’s not unusual to take tiny hits in a critical work that advances a specific position or viewpoint; however, the distinguishing feature of the Ronellian punch is that it’s the effect ofnopositive knowledge claim. Ronell’s critical texts operate not as formal arguments but as the...

  5. Photo album
    (pp. xxxvii-lii)
  6. PART I The Call of Technology

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-4)

      Q.Would you characterize your approach to technology as posthumanist?

      A. Yes, I certainly would, though I might have to pause and explicate the meaning of “post.” Still, I look to technology to affirm those aspects of posthumanism that are more liberatory and politically challenging to us. As I said, one of my concerns has been with television. Beyond the thematizations of crime, murder, and the production of corpses that don’t need to be mourned, I am very interested in the way television stages and absorbs trauma, the way it puts in crisis our understanding of history and the relation...

    • 1 Delay Call Forwarding
      (pp. 5-37)

      And yet, you’re saying yes, almost automatically, suddenly, sometimes irreversibly. Your picking it up means the call has come through. It means more: you’re its beneficiary, rising to meet its demand, to pay a debt. You don’t know who’s calling or what you are going to be called upon to do, and still, you are lending your ear, giving something up, receiving an order. It is a question of answerability. Who answers the call of the telephone, the call of duty, and accounts for the taxes it appears to impose?

      The project of presenting a telephone book belongs to the...

    • 2 Support Our Tropes: READING DESERT STORM
      (pp. 38-62)

      GOING DOWN IN HISTORY: According to one version, there was a telephone call that did not take place. This is the version of Saddam Hussein. If the Iraqi troops were remarkably immobilized when they were ordered by George Bush to withdraw from Kuwait, this was because Saddam (so the version goes) was stationed at the reception desk of international politics, waiting for Bush’s call. Had that call been completed, claimed Saddam on several occasions, he would have honored the demand of the community of nations for which Bush was the principal operator. But George Bush never placed that call, and...

      (pp. 63-88)

      CHANNEL TWELVE: Ethics has been largely confined to the domains of doing, which include performative acts of a linguistic nature. While we have understood that there is no decision which has not passed through the crucible of undecidability, ethics still engages, in the largest possible terms, a reflection on doing. Now what about the wasted, condemned bodies that crumble before a television? What kinds of evaluations, political or moral, accrue to the evacuated gleam of one who is wasting time—or wasted by time? There is perhaps little that is more innocent, or more neutral, than the passivity of the...

      (pp. 89-96)

      When at long last he came out of hiding to offer a word of solace or an official statement of fact, the president of the United States said, “We are being tested.” In the meanwhile the mayor of New York suddenly came alive with language and filled the telecommunicational spaces with quiet grandeur. Both understood that they were being tested—or more precisely, perhaps,retested,since they were riding waves of repetition compulsion and responding to some failed anteriority; they had both been subjected to the blows of delegitimizing narratives of which they were, for the most part, themselves the...

  7. PART II Freedom and Obligation:: Minority Report on Children, Addicts, Outlaws, and Ghosts

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 97-100)

      Q.In the introductory remarks to the interview you did with Andrea Juno inResearch: Angry Women,you are referred to as an “ivory-tower terrorist.” Are you comfortable with that label? Does it seem accurate?

      A. These are questions about naming and location, and in this regard neither term is acceptable. The ivory tower is something that I have never been embraced by, or possibly even seen; it is a phantasm. And “terrorist” would imply a kind of being that is single-minded and fanatically set on a goal. By contrast, I would be too dispersed, self-retracting, and self-annulling in the...

    • 5 On the Unrelenting Creepiness of Childhood: LYOTARD, KID-TESTED
      (pp. 101-127)

      From Socrates’ predatory urges to Locke’s invention of the “Ideot” or Hegel’s racist assignments—for the moment I shall take this no further—philosophy has demonstrated a need to impound those who could not speak for themselves, who had not reached a certain legislated majority. Under the reign of Locke, Hume, and Condillac, empirical philosophy assembled the figure of the idiot in order to put some reality behind established hypothetical assumptions.¹ The idiot pinned down the first folds of language in the essays on human understanding. Made to stand for an epoch, lost to civilization, of originary memory, the idiot...

    • 6 Toward a Narcoanalysis
      (pp. 128-140)

      This work does not accord with literary criticism in the traditional sense. Yet it is devoted to the understanding of a literary work. It could be said to reside within the precincts of philosophical endeavor. Indeed, it tries to understand an object that splits existence into incommensurable articulations. This object resists the revelation of its truth to the point of retaining the status of absolute otherness. Nonetheless, it has given rise to laws and moral pronouncements. This fact, in itself, is not alarming. The problem is signaled elsewhere, in the exhaustion of language. Where might one go today, to what...

    • 7 Deviant Payback: THE AIMS OF VALERIE SOLANAS
      (pp. 141-144)

      In 1968 Jacques Derrida brought out his pathbreaking essay “The Ends of Man” and Valerie Solanas began earnestly distributingSCUM Manifesto.¹ In June of that year she gunned down Andy Warhol as he was speaking on the telephone. These events may seem miles apart on the cultural shock charts, yet they are linked in ways that urge us to reflect on their ineluctable contiguities. Both Derrida and Solanas are interested in the aims and finality of the concept “man.” Admittedly, that may be where their improbable rendezvous ends, somewhere on an existential corner of 1968, situated among the assassinations of...

    • 8 Preface to Dictations
      (pp. 145-156)

      The ubiquity of Goethe’s name in the works I was studying at the time, led me, at the merciful end of graduate school, to read most of what he had written. Despite the pious thoroughness of Germanist scholars, Goethe opened the vertiginous experience of a suspended transcendence of the work. It was not that his single writings lacked beauty or rigor, but they in themselves could not account for the grandeur accorded to “Goethe” in the most prestigious texts of our modernity. I was not yet prepared to believe that, like the Wizard of Oz, Goethe was tied in the...

  8. PART III Psyche–Soma:: The Finite Body

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 157-160)

      Q.In your essay“The Sujet Suppositaire,”you suggest that “a question regarding the transmission of sexual marks as a condition of knowledge can be posed under the name ‘Oedipedagogy.’” Rumor has it that you have also taught a graduate seminar called Oedipedagogy. Would you unpack that term for us and tell us a bit about the seminar?

      A. What I mean by “Oedipedagogy,” briefly, is the way pedagogy is linked to desire but also to the structures of parricidal writing or overcoming your teachers. This intentional dimension abides in the teaching relation where all sorts of aberrant transferential or...

    • 9 A Note on the Failure of Man’s Custodianship
      (pp. 161-167)

      Never felt to be a natural catastrophe, AIDS has from the start carried the traits of ahistoricalevent. If AIDS had been comprehensible only in terms of natural calamity, it would not have called for a critique: you cannot throw a critique at an earthquake, nor can you really complain about the pounding waves of the ocean, not even if you were inclined to view it through Bataille’s pineal eye, as the earth’s continual jerking off. But catastrophe, folded in by traits of historical if not conventional markings, calls for a critique; it demands areading.

      I started writing...

    • 10 The Disappearance and Returns of the Idiot
      (pp. 168-187)

      Nietzsche, the first modern philosopher to put his body on the line, to write for and with it, prescribing distinct regimens and monitoring cultural habits, if not addictions, shares with Dostoevsky a certain acceptance of that which has been abjected, excreted by the major cultural codifications of corporeal enactment. Both writers perpetually return to the sheer facticity of bodily existence but not so much as a mute actuality anticipating meaning by way of a transcendent consciousness—there is some of that in Dostoevsky, but it gets constantly subverted and remains merely a temptation—more as a kind of unassimilable scandal....

    • 11 The Philosophical Code: DENNIS COOPER’S PACIFIC RIM
      (pp. 188-200)

      In an era that understands the reduction of subjectivity to a thumbprint or a medical record, not to speak of a police profile, Dennis Cooper captures the subworld that has slithered by metaphysics and that could not be accounted for by traditional notions of beauty and identity. Clearly marked by events that bind us—but also pressed by the silent chronicity of illness, stupor, kiddie porn, the global takeover of signification—his works achieve a level of pertinence that give them a cult vitality, an uncommon literary vigor. Still, the thematic registers of the work consistently reduce the energy that...

  9. PART IV Danke! et Adieu:: On Hookups and Breakups

    • [PART IV Introduction]
      (pp. 201-204)

      Q.In the “Activist Supplement,” you suggest that “the opposition between passive and active proffers a deluded equation. Take a look around you,” you write, “haven’t we, as a culture, been too active, too action-filled?” And you note that a “true ethics of community . . . would have to locate a passivity beyond passivity, a space of repose and reflection that would let the other come.” This is not the typical view of community, which is usually posited as a product to be built and which therefore requires the active subject building. Would you elaborate on this ethic of...

      (pp. 205-226)

      “Geh aber nun und grüsse”(Yet, go now and greet). I would like to devote myself tonight to a moment in the unprecedented testimony of Hölderlin’s late thought—to that moment in which Hölderlin named the modern experience of mourning. While Heidegger’s later work and many Heideggerian discourses appear to be characterized by a similar tonality of mourning, Hölderlin’s thought of finitude is often more joyous and affirmative, or, in terms posed by Jean-Luc Nancy, Hölderlin appears to affirm a more abandoned experience of dispossession than Heidegger’s texts allow.¹

      “Wo aber sind die Freunde?”(Yet, where are my friends?) In...

    • 13 On Friendship; Or, Kathy Goes to Hell
      (pp. 227-239)

      When I first met Acker, it was as ifmemory,mother of the Muses, had been engaged in advance. I had already read her, begun the process of introjection according to a private transferential bureaucracy of self. There was something ass backwards about our encounter, which occurred as a kind of material extension of a friendship already begun—a constellated relationship already capable of its idiomatic quarrels and turns, complicities and rushes. As in any number of transferential engagements, Kathy preceded herself in my life and already occupied an internal territory of considerable consequence. In a sense, I recognized her...

    • 14 Loving Your Enemy
      (pp. 240-254)

      I give up; I surrender. I yield without hesitation to the incomprehensibility of what is taking us down at this time. In the epoch and text of Hegel warmeantsomething. It was productive of sense: the future was counted in, and depended on the way the Weltgeist waged its wounding temperament. The enemy figured as the negated other. War in Hegel served as a pregnancy test for historical becoming; on some pages, bearing the dignity of a solemn signifier, war spoke to us with worldly gravity. Delivering difference and future, it was sheltered by metaphysics and encouraged by the...

  10. PART V The Fading Empire of Cognition

    • [PART V Introduction]
      (pp. 255-258)

      Q. Stupiditytraces the question or problem of a kind of transcendental stupidity. would you tell us a bit about this project?

      A. It was Deleuze who named the future necessity of reading stupidity, and a transcendental stupidity, asking, What are the conditions for the possibility of stupidity? He said that philosophy hasn’t been able to think stupidity. First of all, because philosophy has been hijacked by epistemological considerations of error; error has derailed the thought of stupidity. As he says, literature has always brought the question of stupidity to the door of philosophy, who slammed that door shut, finding...

    • 15 Slow Learner
      (pp. 259-292)

      The temptation is to wage war on stupidity as if it were a vanquishable object—as if we still knew how to wage war or circumscribe an object in a manner that would be productive of meaning or give rise to futurity. One could not easily imagine circumstances in which an agency of state or government, even a U.S. government, would declare war on stupidity in the manner it has engaged a large-scale war on drugs. Though part of a politically suspect roundup, the presumed object of the drug wars offered a hint, at least, of materiality. Stupidity exceeds and...

      (pp. 293-306)

      We do not always know how to calculate the importance of a work. In some cases, there is nothing even to guarantee that the work will arrive. Some works seem to set an ETA—there is a sense that it will take them years to make their arrangements, overcome the obstacles of an unprotected journey, get past the false reception desks blocking their paths. In the more assured and seductive version, these works follow the itinerary of Walter Benjamin’s secret rendezvous—targeting thegeheime Verabredungthat a work has made with the singularity of a destination: in the form, perhaps,...

    • 17 Koan Practice or Taking Down the Test
      (pp. 307-323)

      Testing the limit.In the interview accorded to Salomon Malka, Levinas announces, “I prefer the wordépreuvetoexpériencebecause in the wordexpériencea knowing of which the self is master is always said. In the wordépreuvethere is at once the idea of life and of a critical ‘verification’ which overflows the self of which it is only the ‘scene.’”³ When Lévinas overhauls experience or experiment with the type of endurance implied byépreuve,he opts for a kind of trial: a test site in which the self is placed at absolute risk. The call for ‘verification’...

    • 18 “Is It Happening?”
      (pp. 324-328)

      You’re making it up, you’re faking it, you can’t prove it!As cruel and common as they are, these statements offend not only because they come from a hostile or institutionally appointed space of contestation. They belong to another curl of conspiratorial anguish. The disbelieving persecutor is not the only one who tries to reduce an inassimilable reality to a matter of testability. You yourself, as lacerated victim, cannot believe this has happened,is still happeningto you. Toyou. Language fails you. It is not as if one has mastered trauma so well that one can get out from...

  11. Index
    (pp. 329-344)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-349)