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Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics

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    Book Description:

    Gerhard Richter's groundbreaking study argues that the concept of "afterness" is a key figure in the thought and aesthetics of modernity. It pursues questions such as: What does it mean for something to "follow" something else? Does that which follows mark a clear break with what came before it, or does it in fact tacitly perpetuate its predecessor as a consequence of its inevitable indebtedness to the terms and conditions of that from which it claims to have departed? Indeed, is not the very act of breaking with, and then following upon, a way of retroactively constructing and fortifying that from which the break that set the movement of following into motion had occurred?

    The book explores the concept and movement of afterness as a privileged yet uncanny category through close readings of writers such as Kant, Kafka, Heidegger, Bloch, Benjamin, Brecht, Adorno, Arendt, Lyotard, and Derrida. It shows how the vexed concepts of afterness, following, and coming after shed new light on a constellation of modern preoccupations, including personal and cultural memory, translation, photography, hope, and the historical and conceptual specificity of what has been termed "after Auschwitz." The study's various analyses-across a heterogeneous collection of modern writers and thinkers, diverse historical moments of articulation, and a range of media-conspire to illuminate Lyotard's apodictic statement that "after philosophy comes philosophy. But it has been altered by the 'after.'" As Richter's intricate study demonstrates, much hinges on our interpretation of the "after." After all, our most fundamental assumptions concerning modern aesthetic representation, conceptual discourse, community, subjectivity, and politics are at stake.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53034-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction: The Logic of Afterness
    (pp. 1-26)

    As a recent doctoral student discussed with me how best to structure his dissertation, the contours of which were only beginning to take shape, he suggested writing an introduction followed by the individual chapters. Almost without hesitation, I replied by articulating a largely unspoken writerly strategy. To the great bafflement of my student—who up to that point had never written a book-length text—I advised against his plan, explaining that introductions almost always are written after the fact, in other words, last. What experienced writers know—that introductions come first but almost always are composed as an afterthought to...

  4. 1 Afterness and Modernity: A Genealogical Note
    (pp. 27-38)

    In our interrogation of the variegated conceptual aspects of afterness thus far, the words “modern” and “modernity” have made more than one appearance. In fact, one might say that by retroactively glossing terms that already have been in circulation, my sentences in this chapter perform a kind of afterness of their own. That is, what the following sentences introduce and attempt to justify already has preceded them, even haunts them, and my elaborations here, in a sense, chase after what they will have been meant to inaugurate. Afterness, as I wish to understand it, should be conceptualized first and foremost...

  5. 2 Afterness and Critique: A Paradigmatic Case
    (pp. 39-53)

    Few, if any, concepts have enjoyed as much authority and sustained engagement over the past two hundred years of Western thought as the concept of critique or criticism (Kritik). Inasmuch as the gesture of critique presupposes a distancing of oneself from one’s object of scrutiny, critique can be regarded as a textbook example of afterness. To be sure, there are forms of critique and criticism whose primary purpose is to call into consciousness, or build on, the objects to which their gestures fasten. One thinks here, for instance, of the more journalistically or pedagogically mediated forms of literary criticism, theater...

  6. 3 Afterness and Aesthetics: End Without End
    (pp. 54-71)

    The future thinking that Adorno’s model of critique imagines resides in an irreducible tension. On the one hand, it must show itself responsible to absolute singularity and to the moment of departure from what has come before so that it may avoid the comfortable gestures of reassurance and self-inoculation, even in the moment of destruction. As he suggests in his 1965/1966 Frankfurt lecture course on the principles of a negative dialectic, “the moment in which nothing can happen to philosophical thought, that is, when it already resides in the realm of repetition [Wiederholung], of mere reproduction, in that moment philosophy...

  7. 4 Afterness and Rettung: Can Anything Be Rescued by Defending It?
    (pp. 72-87)

    The question concerning the reality or unreality of redeeming and rescuing that we saw Minima Moralia cast into sharp speculative relief names one of the central preoccupations of our discussions of afterness so far. After all, the felt need to rescue something always implies an afterness. Wishing to rescue something—whether from disappearance, destruction, violation, or transformation—places the one who would rescue in a position after the fall, regardless of whether this fall has already occurred and now calls for decisive action or whether this fall has not yet come to pass but is regarded as likely or imminent....

  8. 5 Afterness and Translation: The Politics of Carrying Across
    (pp. 88-117)

    In an essay accompanying the recently published transcript of Heidegger’s seminar on Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind (1794) held at the University of Freiburg during the winter semester 1936/1937, the German philosopher Odo Marquard claims that much of Heidegger’s interest in philosophical aesthetics should be understood chiefly as a form of ideological disappointment and intellectual displacement. To understand the context of Marquard’s claim, it is important to recall that the seminar on Schiller took place a relatively short time after Heidegger, in the autumn of 1933, had rejected offers of professorships from the major metropolitan universities of...

  9. 6 Afterness and the Image (I): Unsettling Photography
    (pp. 118-138)

    Having considered the relation between afterness and translation, we are now in a position to turn to a specific kind of “translation”: photography—arguably the first “new” medium of modernity. As the British scholar Graham Clarke, echoing Hubert Damisch, suggests in his standard work on the cultural history and theory of the photograph, because the photograph interrupts time and removes its subject from history even as it records it for posterity, there is a sense in which every “photograph … has no before or after: it represents only the moment of its own making.”¹ And yet, we could say that...

  10. 7 Afterness and the Image (II): Image Withdrawal
    (pp. 139-153)

    As has become visible in our discussion of the photograph, the image is conceptualized here both as a physical object and as an intellectual figure—that is, as a portrayal of the process of speculative thinking itself. One might say, then, that the image viewed from such a dual perspective is one that manifests itself after—that is, both according to and following—the fundamental divide between perception and cognition. Our task, therefore, is to investigate what the specific afterness of an image thus conceived might entail.

    After the image comes the image. The optical term Nachbild, or “afterimage,” captures...

  11. 8 Afterness and Experience (I): Can Hope Be Disappointed?
    (pp. 154-168)

    In a recent conversation about the problem of hope, the American philosopher Alphonso Lingis suggests that “hope is hope against the evidence. Hope arises in a break with the past. There is a kind of cut and the past is let go of.”¹ To the extent that hope always runs counter to evidence, something merely other than what would be expected based on past experience and probability, one may speak of “a discontinuity in time,” so that “there is a break, and something starts out of nowhere.”² The examples given include the hope that the desired other will fall in...

  12. 9 Afterness and Experience (II): Crude Thinking Rethought
    (pp. 169-185)

    As we have seen in our articulation of the relation between afterness and the experience of hope, afterness can never be an unpolitical category. Indeed, as we are now in a position to argue, there can be no concept of afterness that is not explicitly or implicitly propelled to confront its ethico-political stakes. For something to have followed something else, to have superseded it through critique, rejection, or historical succession, also involves a confrontation with the specific demands of thinking that this afterness calls into presence. To experience afterness is to open up a certain situatedness in the wake of...

  13. 10 Afterness and Experience (III): Mourning, Memory, and the Fictions of Anteriority
    (pp. 186-198)

    In a remarkable letter to Käthchen Schönkopf, a former love interest, on December 12, 1769, the young Goethe records a description of her as she appeared in his guilt-ridden dream the night before. Having failed to respond to her most recent missive for what suddenly seemed like an eternity, his sleep was fitful: “A dream last night reminded me that I owe you an answer. It is neither as though I had forgotten entirely, nor as though I never think of you; no, my friend, every day tells me something of you and of my debts.” Goethe continues:

    But it...

  14. 11 Afterness and Empty Space: No Longer and Not Yet
    (pp. 199-205)

    As the German word Zeitraum, which, idiomatically translated, indicates a period of time but literally means “time-space,” suggests, time not merely is related to space but also can be thought, somewhat curiously, as having a space. Having come in the course of this book on a long journey through heterogeneous engagements with and articulations of the after—from the Greek krinein via the rhetoric of Nachfolge in Kant’s third Critique and the afterness of translation in Heidegger all the way to Derrida’s analysis of mourning and the functions of anteriority—we might now ask if the after is situated not...

  15. Afterwards: After-Words
    (pp. 206-210)

    This study has pivoted on the obsessive engagement with a concept that has been expressed by the texts of modernity in many guises—for instance, by Georg Büchner in his play Leonce and Lena (1836), in which he writes, “a posteriori—that is how everything begins.”¹ Unwilling to content itself with a model that imagines a linear succession between an alleged origin and that which is believed to issue forth from that primal instance, the study has worked to concretize, in a variety of conceptual registers, the question as to what kind of a “beginning” the concept and experience of...

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 211-212)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 213-246)
  18. Index
    (pp. 247-260)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)