Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

Gerhard Richter

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0231157703

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Gerhard Richter's groundbreaking study argues that the concept of "afterness" is a key figure in the thought and aesthetics of modernity. It pursues questions such as: What does it mean for something to "follow" something else? Does that which follows mark a clear break with what came before it, or does it in fact tacitly perpetuate its predecessor as a consequence of its inevitable indebtedness to the terms and conditions of that from which it claims to have departed? Indeed, is not the very act of breaking with, and then following upon, a way of retroactively constructing and fortifying that from which the break that set the movement of following into motion had occurred?

The book explores the concept and movement of afterness as a privileged yet uncanny category through close readings of writers such as Kant, Kafka, Heidegger, Bloch, Benjamin, Brecht, Adorno, Arendt, Lyotard, and Derrida. It shows how the vexed concepts of afterness, following, and coming after shed new light on a constellation of modern preoccupations, including personal and cultural memory, translation, photography, hope, and the historical and conceptual specificity of what has been termed "after Auschwitz." The study's various analyses—across a heterogeneous collection of modern writers and thinkers, diverse historical moments of articulation, and a range of media—conspire to illuminate Lyotard's apodictic statement that "after philosophy comes philosophy. But it has been altered by the 'after.'" As Richter's intricate study demonstrates, much hinges on our interpretation of the "after." After all, our most fundamental assumptions concerning modern aesthetic representation, conceptual discourse, community, subjectivity, and politics are at stake.

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Utopian Longing,” in The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays, trans. Jack Zipes and Frank Mecklenburg (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988), 1–17, here 15. One must no doubt feel honest sympathy for the cautionary note that appears in the volume’s “Notes on Translation and Acknowledgments”: “Due to the fact that it is sometimes impossible to understand Bloch, even when one has a firm command of German, there are no doubt mistranslations. One is never on firm ground when reading

Press, 1994), 20–21. 8. Jacques Derrida, Memoires for Paul de Man, rev. ed., trans. Cecile Lindsay, Jonathan Culler, Eduardo Cadava, and Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 11. 9. Ibid., 14. 10. Ibid., 20. 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid., 123. 13. Ibid., 29. 14. Friedrich Hölderlin, “Die Titanen,” in Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, ed. Michael Knaupp (Munich: Hanser, 1992), 1:390–394, here 391. 15. Jacques Derrida, “Rams: Uninterrupted Dialogue—Between Two Infinities, the Poem,” in

aesthetic theory in thinking through the relation between philosophical speculation and the work of art is the truth that expresses itself, in that very relation, not only otherwise but also as the singularity of a particular form that, while resistant to verification by logic alone, still offers a mode of complexly mediated insight that is unavailable to the conceptual terms of conventional speculative discourse. If this other kind of truth is merely an illusion, then it is an illusion that

semiotic fields and compound nouns as nachahmen (to imitate), Nachfolger (successor), and Nachfahre (descendent) and in words like nachher (afterward), nachgerade (positively), nachhaltig (lasting), nachträglich (retroactive, belated), nacheinander (sequentially), Nachname (last name), Nachfrage (demand, follow-up), Nachkomme (offspring), nachäffen (aping), Nachricht (news), Nachruf (obituary), Nachtisch (dessert), Nachdruck (emphasis, reprint), Nachtrag (supplement), Nachwort (afterword),

full complexity of what is to be thought and of the task of thinking itself. We could say that the photograph offers us an unexpected mode of seeing that aids us in our task to learn to see the difficulty of thinking. Zur Aufgabe steht, das Rätsel zu sehen: The photograph constitutes a snapshot of our learning how to think and of the myriad difficulties that always conspire to prevent us from doing so. “What greater anxiety is there today than the anxiety before thinking? [Welche Angst ist heute

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