The relationships between philosophy and aesthetics and between philosophy and politics are especially pressing issues today. Those who explore these themes will applaud the publication—for the first time in English—of this important collection, one that reveals the scope and force of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s reflections on mimesis, subjectivity, and representation in philosophical thought.
This coherent and rigorous body of work reflects the author’s complex and subtle treatment of mimesis in the history of philosophy from Plato to Heidegger. It contains close critical analyses of works by Plato, Diderot, Hölderlin, Reik, Girard, and Heidegger, and moves through topics such as music, autobiography, tragedy, and the problem of historical and political self-definition.
Because Lacoue-Labarthe deals with issues that cross disciplinary lines, his work will appeal to readers interested in philosophy as it relates to politics, history, and aesthetics, especially literature. By showing that the concept of mimesis is an integral part of philosophical reasoning, he provides a challenging approach to many of Heidegger’s ideas, and contributes to the poststructuralist (or postmodem) attempt to rethink the notions of reference and representation. This approach challenges readers to redefine their understanding of history and politics.
One of the most gifted and active of the younger French philosophers, Lacoue-Labarthe is a respected peer of Jacques Derrida, who has provided an extensive introduction to the book especially for American readers. Those who are familiar with Derrida’s writings will appreciate the opportunity to see his questions approached in an entirely different style by Lacoue-Labarthe, resulting in productive new insights.
Lacoue-Labarthe’s work is outstanding. His essays represent without exception a formidable achievement; they will definitely set new standards for the debate concerning Heidegger’s philosophy, and more generally for all those engaged in the debate about the relation of philosophy and literature. If this inquiry into an abyssal ‘ground’ of theory and philosophy seems to undo their pretensions, it is not simply for the benefit of what one commonly understands by fiction or the literary. It is, rather, an operation at the service of a new type of philosophizing, of a type of philosophy that instead of deploring philosophy’s deficiency regarding its so-called infallibility, valorizes this failure as the source of constant questioning and renewal.
Lacoue-Labarthe is one of the most talented philosophical readers writing in France today and the author of some of the most instructive, pedagogically effective essays I have read on nineteenth- and twentieth-century German literature and philosophy. In his work on the question of mimesis, Lacoue-Labarthe is able to formulate with stark clarity the vertiginous double bind that (in the spectral form of ‘Greece’) haunts German thought of the last two centuries—and hence haunts our ‘modernity.’ Because mimesis is a necessity of any attempt at self-identification (including national self-identification), Lacoue-Labarthe’s ability to think through the aporias and impasses of its logic leads to a truly ‘post-Heideggerian’ rethinking that would rewrite our understanding of history and politics and that is nothing short of a rethinking of our modernity.
- Harvard University Press
- Introduction by Jacques Derrida
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