Romantic Circles: Stanley Cavell and the Event of Romanticism

A new volume has appeared of Romantic Circles, “a refereed scholarly website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture.” This volume is edited by Eric Lindstrom (English, University of Vermont) and is titled “Stanley Cavell and the Event of Romanticism.” To access the volume, click here. Here is an excerpt from the section About this Volume:

At a climactic point in Part Four of The Claim of Reason (1979), the American philosopher Stanley Cavell arrives at the striking conclusion that “romanticism opens with the discovery of the problem of other minds, or with the discovery that the other is a problem, an opening of philosophy.” Cavell’s account of how Romanticism opens is not historical in orientation, but rather offers a rich conceptual, aesthetic, and ethical site of concern that both interrupts and generates his life’s work— thus presenting an opening for scholars and students of the Romantic Period to think the subject of Romanticism anew in studying (with) Cavell. The essays in this volume seek to provide the fullest account to date of Cavell’s prompting by Romanticism in light of his powerful record of engagement with British and European Romantic texts: a body of literature on which Cavell has performed several bravura readings. Cavell’s writings and distinctive philosophical approach have garnered an increasing amount of sustained attention over the past several years, particularly since the publication of Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow (2005) and Little Did I Know (2010). Yet beyond his major American subjects of Thoreau and Emerson, there is still little published scholarship that engages Cavell’s thought at extended, close range with Romanticism as the moment that matters so much him: the “perfectionist” opening that comes after religion, but before philosophy. The present collection—with essays (in suggested reading order) by Emily Sun, Paul Fry, Eric Lindstrom, Eric Walker, and Anne-Lise François, and a substantial Afterword by Joshua Wilner—hinges between the efforts to record Cavell’s engagement with British Romantic texts and to stage new interventions.

The table of contents is as follows:

Issue #2 of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies

Amir Khan, managing editor (together with Sérgio Dias Branco) of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies, has just informed us that the journal’s second issue is now online. You can view or download the full issue here. According to the journal’s announcement:

This special issue showcases Cavell’s appeal “down under,” all papers appearing under the auspices of guest editor, Professor David Macarthur, c/o the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney.

Indeed, the papers in this issue were given at a conference titled “Themes from Cavell” at the University of Sydney on Feb. 27-28, 2012.

For an announcement of the call for papers for the journal’s third issue, click here.

-B.D.

Derrida/Searle: Deconstruction and Ordinary Language: New Book by Raoul Moati + NDPR Review

Raoul Moatiapp‘s Derrida/Searle, déconstruction et langage ordinaire is now available in English from Columbia University Press.

From the publisherRaoul Moati intervenes in the critical debate that divided two prominent philosophers in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s, the British philosopher J. L. Austin advanced a theory of speech acts, or the “performative,” that Jacques Derrida and John R. Searle interpreted in fundamentally different ways. Their disagreement centered on the issue of intentionality, which Derrida understood phenomenologically and Searle read pragmatically. The controversy had profound implications for the development of contemporary philosophy, which, Moati argues, can profit greatly by returning to this classic debate. 

In this book, Moati systematically replays the historical encounter between Austin, Derrida, and Searle and the disruption that caused the lasting break between Anglo-American language philosophy and continental traditions of phenomenology and its deconstruction. The key issue, Moati argues, is not whether “intentionality,” a concept derived from Husserl’s phenomenology, can or cannot be linked to Austin’s speech-acts as defined in his groundbreaking How to Do Things with Words, but rather the emphasis Searle placed on the performativity and determined pragmatic values of Austin’s speech-acts, whereas Derrida insisted on the trace of writing behind every act of speech and the iterability of signs in different contexts.

Samuel C. Wheeler III‘s comprehensive review is available on NDPR. He begins: In the mid-1970s, something like a debate took place between Jacques Derrida and John Searle. Derrida had published an essay[1] that both appreciated and criticized J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words.[2] Searle wrote a reply,[3] which attributed to Derrida misunderstandings of basic elements of the philosophy of language. Derrida wrote a reply to Searle’s reply,[4] which did not address Searle’s view, and was derisive. Raoul Moati has written a dispassionate, careful, even-handed account of the sequence of essays and their significance . . .  

Click [here] to read the review in full.

Jon Baskin on “Finding the Point”

Tour of Houghton for cover story on how literary papers are processed

(Journal entry by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Houghton Library)

“Essay Daily” recently published a lovely essay by friend and fellow Social Thought student, Jon Baskin, on–what else?–the essay. Baskin begins:

We were motivated to start The Point in part by our sense that the essay—historically a rich format for philosophical reflection—was being ghettoized on the one hand into ineffectual personal memoirs, and on the other into jargon-heavy, impersonal academic journals. In the first case, the raw experience was everything—and often shock, trauma or the communication of extreme emotion became substitutes for thought. In the second, the argument was the only thing—to evaluate whether it was successful was simply a matter of traveling smoothly from premises to conclusions. There remained a space, we suspected, for thought unspooled in the midst of experience, where the writer could in describing her own path compel the reader to re-examine her own.

Our best essays therefore combine argument and narrative in something like the manner that we believe life combines them. We act out of convictions we barely knew we had, and then sometimes we criticize ourselves, reaching for other people’s words to justify or to condemn ourselves. To us, this goes to the heart of what an “essay” ideally is—that is, an attempt (as the French has it) to understand something that has affected you in your life. Often our essays are long (my mom says they are all too long), but this is less because the essayist wants to say something complicated or even original as it is because whatever she has seen is inseparable from the narrative she wants to tell about how she came to see it . . .

Baskin goes on to cite Cavell’s notion of an author who would “prevent understanding which is unaccompanied by inner change.” Click [here] to read the essay in full.

Stanley Cavell, Religion, and Continental Philosophy: New Book by Espen Dahl

9780253012029_lrg

About: 

The American philosopher Stanley Cavell (b. 1926) is a secular Jew who by his own admission is obsessed with Christ, yet his outlook on religion in general is ambiguous. Probing the secular and the sacred in Cavell’s thought, Espen Dahl explains that Cavell, while often parting ways with Christianity, cannot dismiss it either. Focusing on Cavell’s work as a whole, but especially on his recent engagement with Continental philosophy, Dahl brings out important themes in Cavell’s philosophy and his conversation with theology.

(More from the publisher [here])

Table of Contents:

- Acknowledgements
– List of Abbreviations
– Introduction
1. Modernism and Religion
2. The Ordinary Sublime
3. Acknowledging God
4. Skepticism, Finitude, and Sin
5. The Tragic Dimension of the Ordinary
6. The Other and Violence
7. Forgiveness and Passivity
– Conclusion: The Last Question: Self-redemption or Divine Redemption?
– Notes
– Bibliography
– Index

“Wittgenstein, Pedagogy, and Literary Criticism” by Timothy Yu and “Wittgenstein’s Use” by R. M. Berry in New Literary History

One of the pleasures of summer is discovering (or re-discovering) articles published over the last year. Here are two on our “to-read” list:

The Summer 2013 issue of New Literary History includes Timothy Yu’s article “Wittgenstein, Pedagogy, and Literary Criticism” (Vol. 44, No. 3, 361-378). Here is the abstract:

“Both literary critics and philosophers have sought to use the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein to provide a firmer foundation for the way we talk about literature. These attempts have generally fallen short in their attempts to extract a positive theory of literature and reading from Wittgenstein. In working through some of Wittgenstein’s remarks on music and poetry in Zettel, I suggest that Wittgenstein does not give us a “new” way of reading, but instead gives us tools for clearing up misunderstandings about our process of reading. Reading Wittgenstein may help us give literary criticism peace, allowing us to see that our disagreements about critical styles do not prevent us from carrying forward the day-to-day practice of criticism. Wittgenstein’s focus on how we learn to use words turns our attention away from literary theory and toward literary pedagogy, reminding us to think about how we learn and teach the very terms that we debate and question.”

The Autumn 2013 issue of the same journal proposes a number of scintillating reflections on the uses and value of literature, art, humanistic study in the contemporary age. Rita Felski’s introduction sheds light on the stakes of such reflection today: “What are the uses of literature—or film, sculpture, dance, philosophy, music, dramatic performance? And to what purpose are these subjects being taught in colleges and universities? At present, such questions are very much in the air, thanks to a heated back-and-forth about the value of humanistic study. Bristling with a new-found sense of indignation, politicians and pundits are demanding that the humanities be called to account, that professors be required to document the uses of the subjects they teach. There is no longer any agreement, it would seem, that Baudelaire and Buddhism are worth studying for their own sake. To many scholars, such demands seem radically misconceived—a sign of the growing philistinism and creeping corporatization of academic life. Yet in certain cases, interlocutors may be talking at cross-purposes. After all, what exactly do we mean when we talk about use? What does “use” encompass and how might its meanings and possibilities be understood? The essays in this special issue share a sharpened curiosity about a constantly invoked yet rarely examined idea.”

Of particular interest to readers of this blog might be R. M. Berry’s essay, “Wittgenstein’s Use” (New Literary History, vol. 44, No. 4, Autumn 2013, 617-638). Please find the abstract below:

The current “crisis” of the humanities foregrounds conceptual confusions about the humanities’ use. Wittgenstein’s account of meaning as use can help clarify these confusions, but only by making humanistic knowledge internal to the knower’s form of life. Part of the reason recent debates over the practical value of the humanities have proven so unsatisfying is their failure to explain how it is possible for humanistic knowledge to be either useful or useless to the human beings whose lives form its basis. Because in Philosophical Investigations knowledge of human life is normally expressed in how humans live, not in descriptions of how humans live, the practical value—that is, the use—of humanistic study seems obvious only in contexts where dehumanization has become continuous with human life. Martha Nussbaum’s attempt to enlist the humanities in combatting dehumanization fails to account adequately for this dependence of humanistic knowledge on humans’ alienation from themselves and their kind. If Wittgenstein can meaningfully describe the natural conditions of being human, it is only because he addresses readers who, like himself, find it natural in certain contexts to live as though having forgotten them. Chinua Achebe’s account of racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness also addresses readers for whom, in certain contexts, dehumanization comes naturally, but Achebe presupposes, rather than describes, what it means to know another as a human being. In Stanley Cavell’s interpretation of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, knowing a human being is a matter of acknowledging, not necessarily of describing, naturally occurring conditions of one’s own and others’ form of life. However, in contexts where dehumanization has come to seem natural—that is, where humanity is experienced as an external condition to which, in living, everyone conforms—acknowledging what it means to be human requires describing what one knows. These descriptions will comprise contributions to the humanities. Knowing another as a human being, when not naturally occurring, means getting to know human life better, and getting to know human life is Wittgenstein’s use.

Back to Ordinary Life

The last issue, No. 18, of Raison Publique (Presses Universitaires de Rennes), edited by Sandra Laugier and Marie Gaille, is entitled “Retour à la vie ordinaire.” Some of our readers might be interested in this collection of essays:

  • Sandra LaugierIntroduction
  • Pascale Molinier et Lise GaignardL’ordinaire tient à un fil…
  • Hélène L’HeuilletLe sujet de l’inconscient, une exception ordinaire ou L’ordinaire dans la cure psychanalytique
  • Sylvie ServoiseL’« ordinaire » des camps (R. Antelme, P. Levi, Imre Kertész)
  • Michel NaepelsAprès toutes ces guerres
  • Albert OgienRevenir à l’ordinaire, l’exercice de la connaissance en situation d’intervention
  • Marie GailleLe retour à la vie ordinaire : un enjeu épistémologique pour la philosophie morale. Ce que nous apprend l’enquête éthique en contexte médical
  • Séverine MayolL’ordinaire comme commencement du travail sur soi : le cas de la prise en charge des hommes et des femmes sans domicile
  • Magali BessoneLe territoire national comme ordinaire de la solidarité politique : réflexions à partir du cas des Roms migrants en Europe
  • Hourya Bentouhami Qu’est-ce que réparer ? De la justice réparatrice à la réparation du bien commun

Questions présentes

  • Stephen Holmes Repenser le libéralisme et la Terreur
  • Johann Michel Le paradoxe de l’origine des institutions
  • Laura Quintana Démocratie, conflit, violence. Du pari conceptuel aux impasses politiques de la Marche patriotique en Colombie

Critiques

  • Jean-Baptiste MathieuQuand la recherche littéraire redécouvre les émotions
  • Naël DesaldeleerLa République n’a pas dit son dernier mot
  • Diogo SardinhaRevers silencieux de la violence