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Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature

Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature

Jörg Kreienbrock
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature
    Book Description:

    Why do humans get angry with objects? Why is it that a malfunctioning computer, a broken tool, or a fallen glass causes an outbreak of fury? How is it possible to speak of an inanimate object's recalcitrance, obstinacy, or even malice? When things assume a will of their own and seem to act out against human desires and wishes rather than disappear into automatic, unconscious functionality, the breakdown is experienced not as something neutral but affectively--as rage or as outbursts of laughter. Such emotions are always psychosocial: public, rhetorically performed, and therefore irreducible to a "private" feeling. By investigating the minutest details of life among dysfunctional household items through the discourses of philosophy and science, as well as in literary works by Laurence Sterne, Jean Paul, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, and Heimito von Doderer, Kreienbrock reconsiders the modern bourgeois poetics that render things the way we know and suffer them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5051-6
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: How (Not) to Do Things with Doors
    (pp. 1-21)

    This study focuses on the obstinate obtrusiveness of what Martin Heidegger callsZeug, a recalcitrant term that so thoroughly defies translation that only colloquial terms give some handle on what Heidegger is after. Often translated by “equipment,” the term is probably better understood as the underlying stuff of everyday life,¹ the tools and equipment that are at one’s disposal. Malicious objects refuse to disappear into their automatic, unconscious functionality and instead remain stubbornly conspicuous. Endowed with agency, these cunning and perfidious intruders into the lifeworld of the subject seem to actively interrupt his or her intentions, unleashing anger and rage...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “When Things Move upon Bad Hinges”: Sterne and Stoicism
    (pp. 22-66)

    Laurence Sterne’s novelThe Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1767, describes the life of its protagonist as constantly threatened by accidents. “I have been the continual sport of what the world calls Fortune,” Tristram exclaims; “and though I will not wrong her by saying, She has ever made me feel the weight of any great or signal evil; — yet with all the good temper in the world, I affirm it of her, That in every stage of my life, and at every turn and corner where she could get fairly...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Annoying Bagatelles: Jean Paul and the Comedy of the Quotidian
    (pp. 67-121)

    In the fourth part ofTruth and Fiction (Dichtung und Wahrheit), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe discusses the relationship between inspiration and the process of writing:

    I therefore often wished, like one of my predecessors, to get me a leather jerkin made, and to accustom myself to write in the dark, so as to be able to fix down at once all such unpremeditated effusions. So frequently had it happened, that, after composing a little piece in my head, I could not recall it, that I would now hurry to the desk, and, at one standing, write off the poem from...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Malicious Objects: Friedrich Theodor Vischer and the (Non)Functionality of Things
    (pp. 122-171)

    On November 29, 1879, the British satirical magazinePunchreported on a recently published article by the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Theodor Vischer. Earlier that month “Herr Vischer, an eminent authority on Art and Aesthetics,” appalled by the obnoxious behavior of a fellow traveler on a recent train ride, had been “emptying the vials of his wrath … over rude people who lay their dirty foot-coverings on railway cushions in front of him.”¹ What exactly was the cause of Vischer’s rage, which he had meticulously documented in an essay for a Stuttgart newspaper under the title “Podo-Booetism [Podoböotismus], or...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Igniting Anger: Heimito von Doderer and the Psychopathology of Everyday Rage
    (pp. 172-224)

    Heimito von Doderer’s 1962 novelThe Merowingians or The Total Family (Die Merowinger oder die totale Familie)begins with a scene in the clinical practice of the psychiatrist Professor Dr. Horn. The patient, Dr. Bachmeyer, describes his ailment: “Rage, Professor. I suffer heavy attacks of rage that are terribly strenuous for me and extremely exhaust me.”¹ Dr. Bachmeyer experiences rage as an exhausting disease that disrupts his psychological as well as physiological health and for this reason seeks treatment in Dr. Horn’s “Neurological and Psychiatrical Clinic” (13). Rage constitutes a pathological deviance from the norm that requires clinical treatment, since...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 225-244)

    Around 1900, following Julius Robert Mayer’s research on the laws of thermodynamics and his later discovery of processes of ignition, the German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald developed a general theory ofenergetics. It broadened and expanded the first two laws of thermodynamics, which state the conservation of energy and the general tendency toward entropy, beyond the realm of physics, mechanics, and chemistry to the life sciences and even the social sciences and the humanities, as the title “The Energetic Foundations of Cultural Studies” (Die energetischen Grundlagen der Kulturwissenschaft) from 1909 suggests.¹ Ostwald introduces a “classification of pure sciences”² that differentiates between...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 245-278)
    (pp. 279-304)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 305-318)