Subject Matters

Subject and Self in French Literature from Descartes to the present

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Edited by Paul Gifford and Johnnie Gration

What can we currently make of ‘the subject'? Under the sway of structuralism and poststructuralism, critical thinking took a distinctly negative turn, effectively disqualifying any form of subjectivity as a reference point in discussions of textual or literary meaning. Since the mid-1970s, however, throughout the human sciences, human agency has been restored as both a methodological principle and an ethical value: a phenomenon broadly designated as ‘the return of the subject'. Yet the returning subject bears the traces of its problematization...
The present collection of essays explores the ways in which the subject now ‘matters', both in principle and in the variety of critical approaches in authorizes. Essays, which are both literary and theoretical in character, cover authors, texts and issues in French literature from Descartes to the present. A wide range of types of writing is examined, from established forms such as the novel to relatively marginal and generically unsystematized discursive practices such as automatic writing and the ‘récit de rêve'.
Though it shuns ‘closure' in a matter which remains ultimately elusive, this book offers some account of the types of answer which remain open and of those we have learned to leave behind.

Ambiguous Subjects

Dissolution and Metamorphosis in the Postmodern Sublime

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Jennifer Wawrzinek

In the history of ideas, the aesthetic categories of the sublime and the grotesque have exerted a powerful force over the cultural imagination. Ambiguous Subjects is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between these concepts. Tracing the history of the sublime from the eighteenth century through Burke and Kant, Wawrzinek illustrates the ways in which the sublime has traditionally been privileged as an inherently masculine and imperialist mode of experience that polices and abjects the grotesque to the margins of acceptable discourse, and the way in which twentieth-century reconfigurations of the sublime increasingly enable the productive situating of these concepts within a dialogic relation as a means of instating an ethical relation to others.
This book examines the articulations of both the sublime and the grotesque in three postmodern texts. Looking at novels by Nicole Brossard and Morgan Yasbincek, and the performance work of The Women’s Circus, Wawrzinek illuminates the ways in which these writers and performers restructure the spatial and temporal parameters of the sublime in order to allow various forms of highly contingent transcendence that always necessarily remain in relation to the grotesque body. Ambiguous Subjects illustrates how the sublime and the grotesque can co-exist in a manner where each depends on and is inflected through the other, thus enabling a notion of individuality and of community as contingent, but nevertheless very real, moments in time.
Ambiguous Subjects is essential reading for anyone interested in aesthetics, continental philosophy, gender studies, literary theory, sociology and politics.

Moving Subjects

Processional Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

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Edited by Kathleen Ashley and Wim Hüsken

Procession, arguably the most ubiquitous and versatile public performance mode until the seventeenth century, has received little scholarly or theoretical attention. Yet, this form of social behaviour has been so thoroughly naturalised in our accounts of western European history that it merited little comment as a cultural performance choice over many centuries until recently, when a generation of cultural historians using explanatory models from anthropology called attention to the processional mode as a privileged vehicle for articulation in its society. Their analyses, however, tended to focus on the issue of whether processions produced social harmony or reinforced social distinctions, potentially leading to conflict. While such questions are not ignored in this collection of essays, its primary purpose is to reflect upon salient theatrical aspects of processions that may help us understand how in the performance of “moving subjects” they accomplished their often transformative cultural work.

Entangled Subjects

Indigenous/Australian Cross-Cultures of Talk, Text, and Modernity

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Michèle Grossman

Winner of the 2015 ASAL Walter McCrae Russell Award

Indigenous Australian cultures were long known to the world mainly from the writing of anthropologists, ethnographers, historians, missionaries, and others. Indigenous Australians themselves have worked across a range of genres to challenge and reconfigure this textual legacy, so that they are now strongly represented through their own life-narratives of identity, history, politics, and culture. Even as Indigenous-authored texts have opened up new horizons of engagement with Aboriginal knowledge and representation, however, the textual politics of some of these narratives – particularly when cross-culturally produced or edited – can remain haunted by colonially grounded assumptions about orality and literacy.
Through an examination of key moments in the theorizing of orality and literacy and key texts in cross-culturally produced Indigenous life-writing, Entangled Subjects explores how some of these works can sustain, rather than trouble, the frontier zone established by modernity in relation to ‘talk’ and ‘text’. Yet contemporary Indigenous vernaculars offer radical new approaches to how we might move beyond the orality–literacy ‘frontier’, and how modernity and the a-modern are productively entangled in the process.

Uneasy Subjects

Postcolonialism and Scottish Gaelic Poetry

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Silke Stroh

Scottish and “Celtic fringe” postcolonialism has caused much controversy and unease in literary studies. Can the non-English territories and peoples of the British Isles, faced with centuries of English hegemony, be meaningfully compared to former overseas colonies? This book is the first comprehensive study of this topic which offers an in-depth study of Gaelic literature. It investigates the complex interplay between Celticity, Gaeldom, Scottish and British national identity, and international colonial and postcolonial discourse. It situates post/colonial elements in Gaelic poetry within a wider context, showing how they intersect with socio-historical and political issues, anglophone literature and the media.
Highlighting the centrality of Celticity as an archetypal construct in colonial discourses ancient and modern, this volume traces post/colonial themes and strategies in Gaelic poetry from the Middle Ages to the present. Central themes include the uneasy position of Gaels as subjects of the Scottish or British state, and as both intra-British colonised and overseas colonisers. Aiming to promote interdisciplinary dialogue, it is of interest for scholars and students of Scottish Studies, Gaelic and English literature, and international Postcolonial Studies.

Subjects and Objects

Art, Essentialism, and Abstraction

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Jeffrey Strayer

The subject matter of Subjects and Objects is the limits of Abstraction in art. The notion of Abstraction, its development in art history, and the relation of art and philosophy regarding Abstraction are considered in addition to identifying and examining things that are essential to artworks. Any artwork has an identity, and comprehension of that identity depends on a perceptual object. A subject’s apprehension of such an object creates an “artistic complex” of which the object, the subject, and the apprehension are constituents. The essential elements of this kind of complex are the subject of the final part of the work. Its concluding section considers these elements as ‘material’ to be used to determine the limits of Abstraction.

The Subject of Aesthetics

A psychology of art and experience

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Tone Roald

How does art influence us? In The Subject of Aesthetics, Tone Roald approaches aesthetics as a psychological discipline, showing how works of art challenge our habitual ways of perceiving the world. While aesthetics has traditionally been a philosophical discipline, Roald discusses how it is very much alive in the realm of psychology – a qualitative psychology of lived experience. But what actually constitutes an aesthetics of lived experience? The book answers that question by analyzing people’s own engagement with visual art. What emerges is that the object of aesthetics is indeed the subject.

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Edited by Karl Simms

This volume contains nineteen essays — eighteen here presented for the first time — exploring the question of subjectivity as seen from a linguistic perspective. Part I concerns the relationship between the linguistic subject, particularly the grammatical first person, and the subject in more general sense of ‘person'. Topics covered include deixis, verbal marking and temporalisation, and performatives. Part II concerns the relationship of subjectivity to the experience of reading, and as such considers the semiotics of both literary and non-literary texts, inter-modal representation, authorship and intertextuality. The essays in the volume are principally influenced by the thinking of Saussure, Jakobson, Guillaume, Benveniste, Wittgenstein, Barthes and Deleuze, and the book will appeal to scholars with an interest in theoretical linguistics, semiotics, discourse, analysis and philosophy of language. Karl Simms provides comprehensive introductions to each of the parts, making the book accessible to inform general readers with an interest in cultural and communication studies.

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Andrea S. Thomas

Since the 1874 publication in Belgium of the first posthumous edition of Les Chants de Maldoror, the enigmatic work has served as an inspiration for the poetic and creative liberation of countless twentieth-century writers and artists. Little is known, however, about the book’s elusive French author Isidore Ducasse, known as le comte de Lautréamont, and his abbreviated life (1846-1870). In the absence of an original manuscript, Lautréamont’s readers have over time altered his poetry for personal, political, and aesthetic reasons. Symbolist literary journals, first editions of his work, surrealist illustrated editions, and the prestigious Pléiade edition (1970 and 2009), reveal how varying editions of Lautréamont’s work have in turn contributed to his legend. In Lautréamont, Subject to Interpretation, Andrea S. Thomas carefully explores these editions of this so-called poète maudit to show how impassioned readers can shape not only the reception of works, but the works themselves.

A Failed Parricide

Hegel and the Young Marx

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Roberto Finelli

According to an established interpretation, the transition from Hegel’s materialism to Marx’s materialism signifies a progressive development from an abstract-idealist theory of becoming, to a theory of the concrete actions of human beings within history. A Failed Parricide by Roberto Finelli offers an innovative reading of the Marx-Hegel relationship, arguing that the young Marx remained structurally subaltern to Hegel’s distinctive conception of the subject that becomes itself in relation to alterity. Marx’s early critique of Hegel is represented as a ‘failed parricide’, relying upon an organicist and spiritualist anthropology derived from Feuerbach’s presumed materialism. Only in Marx’s mature critique of political economy will he be able to return to this ‘primal scene’ and produce a distinctive theory of the role of formal determinations in social and political modernity.

First published in Italian by Bollati Borighieri Editore as Un parricidio mancato. Il rapporto tra Hegel e il giovane Marx, Turin, 2004.