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Essays from the Edge

Essays from the Edge: Parerga and Paralipomena

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 280
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    Essays from the Edge
    Book Description:

    Over his distinguished career as a European intellectual historian and cultural critic, Martin Jay has explored a variety of major themes: the Frankfurt School, the exile of German intellectuals in America during the Nazi era, Western Marxism, the denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought, the discourse of experience in modern Europe and America, and lying in politics.Essays from the Edgeassembles Jay's writings from the intersections of this intellectual journey. Several essays focus on methodological debates in the humanities and social sciences: the limits of interdisciplinarity, the issue of national or universal philosophy, cultural relativism and visuality, and the implications of periodization in historical narrative. Others examine the concept of "scopic regime" and the metaphors of revolution and the gardening impulse. Among the theorists treated at length are Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. The essays also include several of Jay'sSalmagundicolumns, dealing with subjects as varied as the new Museum of Modern Art in New York, the impact of Colin Wilson's The Outsider, and the demise of thePartisan Review.

    All of these efforts can be considered what Arthur Schopenhauer called, to borrow the title of one of his most celebrated collections, "parerga and paralipomena." As essays from the edges of major projects, they illuminate Jay's major arguments, elaborate points made only in passing in the larger texts, and explore ideas farther than would have been possible, given the focus of the larger works themselves. The result is a lively, diverse offering from an extraordinary intellect.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3156-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 1851, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer gathered together two volumes of his scattered essays, aphorisms, dialogues, and random thoughts and published them under the recherché titleParerga and Paralipomena.¹ Far more than his masterwork of 1819,The World as Will and Representation,it reached a surprisingly wide readership and made his reputation. The 1850s were, after all, a grim period of political reentrenchment following the failures of the revolutions of 1848, and the time was ripe for the sour pessimism and disillusionment with reason expressed in his philosophy of the irrational will. If any progress were to be made,...

  5. Taking on the Stigma of Inauthenticity Adorno’s Critique of Genuineness
    (pp. 9-21)

    “The search for authenticity, nearly everywhere we find it in modern times,” writes Marshall Berman in his book on Rousseau,The Politics of Authenticity,“is bound up with a radical rejection of things as they are . . . the desire for authenticity has emerged in modern society as one of the most politically explosive of human impulses.”¹ Even those with less radical agendas, like Sigmund Freud, have been seen as sharing the same desire. According to Lionel Trilling in his classic studySincerity and Authenticity,Freud’s insistence on the tragic dimension of the human condition “had the intention of...

  6. Is Experience Still in Crisis? Reflections on a Frankfurt School Lament
    (pp. 22-35)

    Let me begin with two quotations: (1) “The identity of experience in the form of a life that is articulated and possesses internal continuity—and that life was the only thing that made the narrator’s stance possible—has disintegrated. One need only note how impossible it would be for someone who participated in the war to tell stories about it the way people used to tell stories about their adventures.”¹ (2) The war is “as totally divorced from experience as is the functioning of a machine from the movement of the body, which only begins to resemble it in pathological...

  7. Mourning a Metaphor The Revolution Is Over
    (pp. 36-39)

    ”Revolution,” it should be recalled, began its extraordinary career as a metaphor borrowed from astronomy, which had only recently revised its understanding of what in the heavens really revolved around what.¹ In medieval Latin,revolutiomeant a return or rolling back, often implying a cyclical revolving in time. This was its meaning, for example, in Copernicus’s famous treatise of 1543De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.Although its earliest political uses have been detected in mid-fourteenth-century Italy, the term did not come into its own in the lexicon of politics until the upheavals of seventeenth-century England, when “reformation,” losing its power as...

  8. Cultural Relativism and the Visual Turn
    (pp. 40-50)

    On April 30, 1988, the Dia Art Foundation in New York hosted a well-attended conference on the theme of vision and visuality. It brought together a number of scholars working on the then nascent field of visual culture: Hal Foster, Jonathan Crary, Rosalind Krauss, Norman Bryson, Jacqueline Rose, and this author. The slim volume of conference proceedings, including vigorous debate among the participants, was published later that year as the second volume in Dia’s series Discussions in Contemporary Culture.¹ In hindsight,Vision and Visuality,as the book came to be called, may be seen as the moment when the visual...

  9. Scopic Regimes of Modernity Revisited
    (pp. 51-63)

    “What are scopic regimes?” recently asked a curious, unnamed Internet questioner onPhotherel,an official European e-learning website dedicated to the “conservation and dissemination of photographic heritage.”¹ Although noting that the now widely adopted term was first coined by the French film theorist Christian Metz, the no less anonymous site respondent ducked answering the question head-on. He nonetheless could claim that “the advantage of the concept of ‘scopic regime’ is that it supersedes the traditional distinction between technological determinism . . . and social construction. . . . In the case of scopic regimes, culture and technology interact.” And then,...

  10. No State of Grace Violence in the Garden
    (pp. 64-76)

    In 1975, my wife and I made what in retrospect was our second wisest decision—second only, that is, to our getting married a year earlier—which was to buy property in the San Francisco Bay Area. Along with the house came with what in Berkeley was a reasonably sized garden, which had several generations of previous plantings waiting to surprise us when the seasons changed. I can remember in particular my feeling of delight when in February a profusion of delicate yellow petals on tall stalks above a cluster of clover-like leaves broke through the ground seemingly everywhere. Each...

  11. Visual Parrhesia? Foucault and the Truth of the Gaze
    (pp. 77-89)

    Cézanne’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 peinture,later the same year.¹ 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,...

  12. The Kremlin of Modernism
    (pp. 90-98)

    At odd intervals in the main galleries of the renovated Museum of Modern Art, there are textual supplements to paintings, rarely more than a paragraph, providing snippets of information about the artist, the context of the work’s production, or the place it holds in the narrative of modern art. What makes these random exceptions to the more frequent practice of labeling the artwork only by artist, title, and date so intriguing is that they seem to follow no obvious pattern that might justify the choices made by the curators to arrest the process of pure looking. Perhaps more text will...

  13. Phenomenology and Lived Experience
    (pp. 99-111)

    In the struggle to define itself in opposition to its predecessor, the generation in France that fashioned itself as postphenomenological took special pleasure in deriding the concept of “lived experience.” Jacques Derrida, to take a salient example, charged inOf Grammatologythat experience is an “unwieldy” concept that “belongs to the history of metaphysics and we can only use it under erasure [sous rature]. ‘Experience’ has always designated the relationship with a presence, whether that relationship had the form of consciousness or not.”¹ The phenomenological attempt to raise it to a transcendental level, above the vagaries of historical and cultural...

  14. Aesthetic Experience and Historical Experience A Twenty-First-Century Constellation
    (pp. 112-122)

    Ever since Homer—or the gaggle of bards who have come down to us under that name—sat down to commemorate in epic poetry the Greek siege of Troy, artists have been inspired to find in historical events the stuff of literature. Indeed, until Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations in Asia Minor in the 1870s, theIliadwas generally assumed to be only fictional, with scant basis in historical fact. We now know it to be a mixture of myth, legend, and semireliable memory of real events, with the precise balance still a source of scholarly conjecture. Even when the first acknowledged...

  15. Still Waiting to Hear from Derrida
    (pp. 123-131)

    The death of Jacques Derrida in October 2004, at the age of seventy-four, should not be seen as the end of an epoch, the demise of an intellectual movement, or even the final act in the life of the man with that proper name. For if Derrida left any legacy at all, it was a radical suspicion about closure and completion, the inexorable linearity of before and after, indeed any “straightforward” temporality not haunted by the specters of a past it imagines it has left behind or pregnant with a future(avenir)still to come(à venir).His many critics...

  16. Pseudology Derrida on Arendt and Lying in Politics
    (pp. 132-148)

    In 1993, Jacques Derrida was invited to participate in a lecture series at the New School dedicated to the memory of Hannah Arendt, who was closely associated with the school during much of her American exile. Although both can in some sense be called Heidegger’s children (if perhaps by different intellectual mothers),¹ the result was his first sustained engagement with her legacy. Entitled “History of the Lie: Prolegomena,” it was published in several places, most recently in the collection edited by Peggy Kamuf calledWithout Alibi.² The texts he discusses at length are Arendt’s essays of 1967 and 1971, “Truth...

  17. The Menace of Consilience Keeping the Disciplines Unreconciled
    (pp. 149-161)

    Over the years, I have been given many opportunities to present my research to audiences across the waters in a number of different institutional settings. Invariably, two responses have been forthcoming—in addition, that is, to whatever howls of disbelief greeted the arguments of the talks themselves. First, someone would express surprise at how much younger I was than they imagined, and second, someone else would profess bafflement at my being a historian. Of late, I have noticed, alas, for not very mysterious reasons, a palpable decline in the frequency of the first of these reactions; the second, however, remains...

  18. Can There Be National Philosophies in a Transnational World?
    (pp. 162-176)

    In June of 2000, theTimes Literary Supplementpublished an anguished commentary by the Polish philosopher Adam J. Chmielewski entitled “Looking Westward: The Submissiveness of Polish Philosophy.”¹ Reflecting on the demise of Marxism as a universalist lingua franca for Polish intellectuals, indeed for all of their counterparts in Eastern Europe, he noted that since 1989, they have been frantically searching for a new guiding paradigm, a new way to orient themselves in an unfamiliar global intellectual landscape. Without a reigningWeltanschauungthey have felt spiritually bereft. Inevitably, he lamented, they have turned to the West for answers, for no original...

  19. 1990 Straddling a Watershed?
    (pp. 177-185)

    Of all the phenomena that register the distance between history as lived experience and history as written record, nothing is more emphatic than the concept of a historical period. When we live through the happenings that constitute our lives, we are never able to know for sure if we inhabit a meaningful epoch of historical time, for without terminal closure and the crossing of a threshold no epoch is yet defined. We cannot see beyond our current horizon to know what the future landscape will look like. Even the apparently mechanical and uniform temporality of centuries, which so often seems...

  20. Allons enfants de l’humanité The French and Human Rights
    (pp. 186-197)

    There can be fewer more appalling signs of our increasingly appalling times than the imprisonment without legal redress or terminal sentence of six hundred or so “enemy combatants” in the Guantánamo Bay prison run by the American government. Outside the legal jurisdiction of any country, not even that of the one doing the imprisoning, they are in what can rightfully be called a dystopian nonterritory, where there is no semblance of the human rights whose virtues America so often preaches to the world. National security, we are told, trumps any other considerations in the time of war, even when that...

  21. Intellectual Family Values William Phillips, Hannah Arendt, and the Partisan Review
    (pp. 198-206)

    With the death on September 12, 2002, of William Phillips and the subsequent suspension of thePartisan Review,the publication he had edited since its founding in 1934, an era in American intellectual life, it has widely been acknowledged, came to a close. The quintessential engaged “little magazine,” whose circulation never passed fifteen thousand, was no longer viable in today’s cultural marketplace, where cutting-edge ideas are more likely to be expressed in the specialized jargon of esoteric academics than in the conversational prose of public intellectuals. The face-to-face interaction of friends and former friends, often entangled in webs of personal...

  22. Still Sleeping Rough Colin Wilson’s The Outsider at Fifty
    (pp. 207-214)

    The fiftieth anniversary of one of the most—albeit ephemerally—acclaimed books of the twentieth century, Colin Wilson’sThe Outsider,came and went without much notice or fanfare, at least in the United States. In Britain, where it had stirred a generation and gave its twenty-five-year-old author instant celebrity, it did only a bit better, with reissues of biographies and a handful of interviews and talks, all of which are dutifully noted on the website devoted to keeping Wilson’s flame burning.¹ But the general pattern of ignoring Colin Wilson and his legacy remains in force. Although he has written more...

  23. Notes
    (pp. 215-252)
  24. Index
    (pp. 253-266)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-268)