At the heart of some of the most influential strands of philosophical, political, and aesthetic modernism lies the conviction that modernity is fundamentally nihilistic. This book offers a wide-ranging critical history of the concept of nihilism from its origins in French Revolutionary discourse to its place in recent theorizations of the postmodern. Key moments in that history include the concept's appropriation by political activists in mid-nineteenth-century Russia, by Nietzsche in the 1880s, by the European avant-garde and 'high' modernists in the (...) early decades of the twentieth century, by conservative revolutionaries in Germany in the interwar years, and by major theorists in the post-Holocaust period. Focusing in particular on the abiding impact of Nietzsche's claim that art is the 'only superior counterforce' to nihilism, Weller argues that an understanding of modernism (and, indeed, of postmodernism) is impossible without a reflection upon the decisive role played by the concept of nihilism therein. (shrink)
If there is one trait common to almost all post-Holocaust theories of literature, it is arguably the notion that the literary event constitutes the affirmation of an alterity that resists all dialectical mastery and makes possible a post-metaphysical ethics. Beckett's oeuvre in particular has repeatedly been deployed as exemplary of just such an affirmation. In Beckett, Literature and the Ethics of Alterity , however, Weller argues through an analysis of the interrelated topics of translation, comedy, and gender that to read (...) Beckett in this way is to miss the strangely 'anethical' nature of his work. (shrink)
One of the most significant ways in which much late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature and philosophy may be distinguished from their predecessors is in their reliance upon the notion of ‘inexpressibility’ and the limits of the sayable. In this article, I seek not only to chart the history of this tradition, but also to reflect critically upon the use it makes of the concept of ‘the nothing’. For all their differences, in both Wittgenstein and Heidegger one encounters deployments of this (...) concept in ways that determine these thinkers’ conceptions of language and literature. My aim here is to initiate a new critical reflection upon the fate of the concept of ‘the nothing’ in modern philosophy and literary theory. (shrink)
Absolute devaluation : Friedrich Nietzsche -- Homelessness : Martin Heidegger -- Fatal positivities : Theodor Adorno -- The naive calculation of the negative : Maurice Blanchot -- Bad violence : Jacques Derrida -- The fracture : Giorgio Agamben -- Distortions, or, Nihilism against itself : Gianni Vattimo -- The denial of (Greek) thought : Alain Badiou.