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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question of what ‘to follow’ or ‘to pursue’ means, as well as ‘to be after,’ back to the question of what I do when ‘I am’ or ‘I follow,’ when I say ‘Je suis.’”3 If, from this perspective, being and following are always imbricated, always make us who we are, in terms that we never fully control or comprehend, we might say that such issues “involve thinking about what is meant by living, speaking, dying, being, and world as in being-in-the-world or being-within the world, or being-with,

thinking of language to his thinking of place and space, see Otto Pöggeler, “Heidegger’s Topology of Being,” in On Heidegger and Language, ed. Joseph Kockelmans (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1972), 107–146; Adam Sharr, Heidegger’s Hut (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006); and Jeff Malpas, Heidegger’s Topology: Being, Place, and World (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2007). In a different tonality, two other recent publications provide a less theoretical but empirically saturated

Origin of German Tragic Drama (Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels); “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire” (Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire); “Pariser Passagen I,”; “The Task of the Translator” (Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers); “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (Über den Begriff der Geschichte); “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility (Third Version)” (Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit [Dritte Fassung]) Bennington, Geoffrey

“everything else,” exhausts itself and remains insufficient. Adorno here wishes to emphasize the universal applicability of this kind of thinking about philosophy in a time of despair. If, for him, everything else exhausts itself in reconstruction (Nachkonstruktion) and remains merely technique or technics (Technik), his sentence gives us other, alternative forms of thinking and writing to think. When viewed in the larger context of Adorno’s work, his word Nachkonstruktion is negatively charged

rescued can avoid the transformations of time and space, the aleatory movements of language, and the unpredictable changes that future readings and interpretations will visit upon it. This reading of a non-self-identical Rettung in relation to a non-self-identical object world is consonant with the predicament of Benjamin’s modernity in the Trauerspiel book where “[a]ny person, any object, any relationship can mean absolutely anything else.”28 Even what is rescued—having attracted the gesture of

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