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A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy

A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy

James J. Bono
Tim Dean
Ewa Plonowska Ziarek
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy
    Book Description:

    This book brings together an international roster of renowned scholars from disciplines including philosophy, political theory, intellectual history, and literary studies to address the conceptual foundations of the humanities and the question of their future. What notions of the future, of the human, and of finitude underlie recurring anxieties about the humanities in our current geopolitical situation? How can we think about the unpredictable and unthought dimensions of praxis implicit in the very notion of futurity?The essays here argue that the uncertainty of the future represents both an opportunity for critical engagement and a matrix for invention. Broadly conceived, the notion of invention, or cultural poiesis, questions the key assumptions and tasks of a whole range of practices in the humanities, beginning with critique, artistic practices, and intellectual inquiry, and ending with technology, emancipatory politics, and ethics. The essays discuss a wide range of key figures (e.g., Deleuze, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Kristeva, Irigaray), problems (e.g., becoming, kinship and the foreign, disposable populationswithin a global political economy, queerness and the death drive, the parapoetic, electronic textuality, invention and accountability, political and social reform in Latin America), disciplines and methodologies (philosophy, art and art history, visuality, political theory, criticism and critique, psychoanalysis, gender analysis, architecture, literature, art). The volume should be required reading for all who feel a deep commitment to the humanities, its practices, and its future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4737-0
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

    (pp. vii-x)
    James J. Bono, Tim Dean and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek
  2. INTRODUCTION: Future, Heteronomy, Invention
    (pp. 1-14)
    James J. Bono, Tim Dean and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek

    A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomybrings together an interdisciplinary and international group of renowned theorists and scholars to reflect on the future of the humanities. Whereas many recent works have addressed this issue in primarily pragmatic terms, this book seeks to examine its conceptual foundations. What notions of futurity, of the human, and of finitude underlie recurring anxieties about the humanities’ future in our current geopolitical situation? How can we think about the unpredictable and unthought dimensions of praxis implicit in the very notion of futurity? What kind of agency is implied by future-oriented...


    • CHAPTER 1 Life and Event: Deleuze on Newness
      (pp. 17-28)
      Paola Marrati

      Whether cinema, as Deleuze claims, is Bergsonian, remains an open question; that Deleuze himself was a Bergsonian, however, is beyond doubt. Still, we should ask ourselves: What, exactly, does the Bergsonian inspiration to be found across Deleuze’soeuvreconsist of? There are, to be sure, several ways to take on this question, but there is one that, to my mind, is decisive: the problem of the new. InCinema 1: The Movement-Image, Deleuze writes, “Bergson transformed philosophy by asking the question of the new in the making instead of the question of eternity.”¹

      This claim, for all its clarity, is...

    • CHAPTER 2 A Precursor: Limiting the Future, Affirming Particularity
      (pp. 29-44)
      Andrew Benjamin

      The possibility of the future, linked though perhaps too often to the unacknowledged positing of the new, endures as a continuing refrain.¹ Hence, there is the inevitable repetition of the problem posed by the need to begin again and anew. Starting with what could have been an epigram—a note taken and recorded during a voyage—allows for an opening to be staged. “The smallest circumstances awaken in the depths of the heart childhood emotions, though always with a new attraction.” (Les plus petites circonstances réveillent au fond du coeur les emotions du premier age, et toujours avec un attrait...

    • CHAPTER 3 Visual Parrhesia?: Foucault and the Truth of the Gaze
      (pp. 45-58)
      Martin Jay

      Cezanne’s famous assertion in a letter to a friend in 1905, “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you,” was first brought into prominence by the French art historian Hubert Damisch in his 1978Huit thèses pour (ou contre?) une sémiologie de la peintureand then made into the occasion for a widely discussed book by Jacques Derrida,La verité en peinturelater the same year.² In that work, Derrida challenged the distinction between work and frame,ergonandparergon, that had allowed philosophers like Kant to establish an autonomous, disinterested realm for art,...


    • CHAPTER 4 Articulation and the Limits of Metaphor
      (pp. 61-83)
      Ernesto Laclau

      In a well-known essay, Gérard Genette discusses the question of the interdependence between metaphor and metonymy in the structuration of Proust’s narrative.¹ Following the pathbreaking work of Stephen Ullmann,² he shows how, on top of the central role traditionally granted to metaphor in Proust’s work, there are other semantic movements of a typical metonymic nature whose presence is, however, necessary for metaphor to succeed in its figural effects. A hypallage such as “sécheresse brune des cheveux” [the brown dryness of hair³]—instead of “sécheresse des cheveux bruns” [the dryness of brown hair]—would be a typical example of such metonymical...

    • CHAPTER 5 Answering for Sense
      (pp. 84-93)
      Jean-Luc Nancy

      Whoever writes responds.

      To whom or to what he or she responds, tradition has given many names. There’s been the Muse, poetic Fury, Genius with or without a capital “G,” inspiration, at times the mission or the vocation, at other times a necessity of the soul or of nerves, a grace from the heavens, a sacred injunction, a duty to remember or to forget, an auto-engendering of the text. But the most ancient name istheain the first verses of theIliad:“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus….”³ In thisincipitof Western literature, the poet merely...

    • CHAPTER 6 “Human” in the Age of Disposable People: The Ambiguous Import of Kinship and Education in Blind Shaft
      (pp. 94-106)
      Rey Chow

      In the essay “Letter on Humanism,”² published soon after Germany’s defeat in the Second World War, Martin Heidegger refers to the condition of homelessness as “coming to be the destiny of the world.”³ By homelessness, Heidegger means something more than not having a roof over one’s head, even though the notions of dwelling and shelter are not at all excluded from his thinking. Heidegger’s assertion of homelessness as the condition—not merely of the defeated but also of the victorious—of the modern world is part of a critique of the status of humanism in the West. From Roman times...


    • CHAPTER 7 The Foreign, the Uncanny, and the Foreigner: Concepts of the Self and the Other in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Philosophy
      (pp. 109-121)
      Rudi Visker

      Although the first and the last word in my title differ by only one syllable, it is this, at first sight, negligible difference that will be at the center of this paper’s attempt to question one of the few themes on which today’s humanities seem, by and large, in agreement: the idea that there is a link between the theme of the foreign (the strange, the other small “o”) and that of the foreigner (the stranger, the Other capital “o”). This link seems to be so evident that it is hardly ever articulated—it is, more often implicitly than explicitly,...

    • CHAPTER 8 An Impossible Embrace: Queerness, Futurity, and the Death Drive
      (pp. 122-140)
      Tim Dean

      Is every vision of the future heteronormative? Must our thinking of futurity necessarily occur within a reproductive framework that imagines the future as a figurative child born from the union of past and present, thereby installing covertly heterosexist assumptions at the heart of any conception of temporality? Motivated by concerns about the normalizing implications embedded in received accounts of history, temporality, and futurity, research in queer theory lately has formulated such questions anew. In the wake of Nietzsche’s genealogical critique of historiography, we are inclined to adopt an attitude of profound skepticism toward any historical narrative organized around principles of...

    • CHAPTER 9 Luce Irigaray and the Question of Critique
      (pp. 141-158)
      Elizabeth Weed

      The future of critique is one of the puzzles facing the critical disciplines. There is one mode of critical reading that attempts to trouble the text for what it is blind to or what it wants not to know. There is another mode of reading that explores some area in the domain of the known, thinks about it differently, casts new light on it, and in doing so, amplifies and clarifies. If the latter thrives to the exclusion of the former, there is a risk that a certain complacency might take hold, a renewed confidence in the reliability of language...


    • CHAPTER 10 Parapoetics and the Architectural Leap
      (pp. 161-179)
      Steve McCaffery

      This essay is divided into three uneven sections. The opening two are short. The first offers a “soft,” manifesto-like exposition of parapoetics; the second discusses a related matter: the paralogicality of the frame. The final section comprises a part mapping of and a few suggestions toward areas of potential parapoetic investigation. Judged on the normative criteria for academic papers, it is premature, partial at best, and thoroughly inconclusive. Seen as an attempt to realize a parapoetic intervention, it will be judged to be an utterly abortive attempt—and quite correctly so. However, as the speculative and tentative tenor of the...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Future of Literature: Complex Surfaces of Electronic Texts and Print Books
      (pp. 180-209)
      N. Katherine Hayles

      Nothing is riskier than prediction; when the future arrives, we can be sure only that it will be different than we thought. Nevertheless, I will risk a prognostication: Digital literature will be a significant component of the twenty-first-century canon. Less a gamble than it may appear, this prediction slyly relies on the fact that almost all contemporary literature isalreadydigital. Except for a handful of books produced by fine letterpresses, print literature consists of digital files through most of its existence. So essential is digitality to contemporary processes of composition, storage, and production that print should properly be considered...

    • CHAPTER 12 Crisis Means Turning Point: A Manifesto for Art and Accountability
      (pp. 210-226)
      Doris Sommer

      If the humanities are in crisis, this is no time to lament a cruel fate, but to make choices, fast. In common usage, crisis can mean stagnation and festering, a present so oppressively present that it crowds out the past and stifles the future. It is paralysis, or the kind of revolution that moves in vicious circles, like the ones associated with Mexico’s Institutionalized Revolutionary Party until its first national defeat in 2000.¹ What response is possible except a derivative criticism, since there is nothing to do but disengage and denounce? Humanists have become adept at this face-saving gesture in...