Wednesday, February 9, 2011

my favorite theory series

***This post is under construction.***

Theory and History of Literature/University of Minnesota Press

I collected first editions of almost every book in this groundbreaking series.  My first book was Jean-François Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1984), laggardly acquired in 1991 from a hip bookstore/café Big & Tall on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, which folded in a few years.  Only if people remembered what was hip in those times, a casual cool not found in today's self-absorbed hipsters.  It was not only an introduction to postmodernism, specifically the critique of the grand récit, but a call to ruthless albeit refined critique.  My second was Mikhail Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1984) and my third was Erich Auerbach's Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (1984), the former due to my long-standing appreciation of Dostoyevsky and the latter due to a newfound admiration of Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature.  The fourth was Peter Burger's Theory of the Avant-Garde (1984) which I wanted to compare to Renato Poggioli's classic The Theory of the Avant-Garde.  My fifth was Georges Bataille's Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (1985) because I was into Bataille's theoretical and literary works.  So on and so forth.  The completist impulse soon took over.  And I must say, I was attracted to the initial no-nonsense minimalist design of the books, which reminded me of certain older French paperbacks.  If anything, at that time, when I was 21, I was seeking an alternative canon, or better stated, an anti-canon.  I first encountered the works of Peter Sloterdijk, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Maurice Blanchot notably, and many others.  When the series came to an end in 1998, I was somewhat saddened but also relieved.  I didn't complete the collection until 2000, when I found mint copies of the two volumes of Michael Nerlich's Ideology of Adventure (1987), at a used bookstore in San Francisco.  I used to believe that it'll take several people several lifetimes to properly begin to come to grips with what's contained in the 88 volumes, and I still do.  Unfortunately, many of the books in the series are out of print, some overpriced, and it's almost impossible to find a mint first edition preferably hardcover. 

For example, I think I was the last person to have a mint first edition of Denis Hollier's The College of Sociology 1937-1939 (1988), a selection of writings by the dissident surrealist milieu of Georges Bataille, a handsome book whose cover illustration came from Marcel Allain/Pierre Souvestre's Fantômas.

My favorite books in the series:
Vladimir Propp / Theory and History of Folklore (1984)
Mikhail Bakhtin / Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1984)
Georges Bataille / Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (1985)
Jacques Attali / Noise: The Political Economy of Music (1985)
Klaus Theweleit / Male Fantasies, Volume 1: Women, Floods, Bodies, History (1987)
Klaus Theweleit / Male Fantasies, Volume 2: Male Bodies: Psychoanalyzing the White Terror (1989)
Hélène Cixous, Catherine Clément / The Newly Born Woman (1986)
José Antonio Maravall / Culture of the Baroque: Analysis of a Historical Structure (1986)
Gilles Deleuze,  Félix Guattari / Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1986)
Géza von Molnár / Romantic Vision, Ethical Context: Novalis and Artistic Autonomy (1987)
Peter Sloterdijk / Critique of Cynical Reason (1988)
Denis Hollier ed. / The College of Sociology 1937-1939 (1988)
F.W.J. Schelling / The Philosophy of Art (1989)
Kristin Ross / The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune (1988)
Giorgio Agamben / Language and Death: The Place of Negativity (1991)
Oskar Negt, Alexander Kluge / Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere (1993)
Theodor W. Adorno / Aesthetic Theory (1998)

Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics/Stanford University Press
The first two books I got were Jean-Luc Nancy's The Experience of Freedom (1993) and The Birth to Presence (1993), published in the same year that the series began.  It complemented University of Minnesota Press' Theory and History of Literature series, with works by Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-François Lyotard, Massimo Cacciari, Theodor W. Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, Peter Szondi, many by Maurice Blanchot as well as by Emmanuel Levinas, several by Jacques Derrida, as well as those by Edmond Jabès, Niklas Luhmann, Bernard Stiegler, and key writings by Cornelius Castoriadis, not to mention Ernst Bloch's long out of print The Spirit of Utopia (2000) and Traces (2006).

My favorite books in the series:
Jean-Luc Nancy / The Experience of Freedom (1993)
Jean-François Lyotard / Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (1994)
Edmond Jabès / The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion (1996)
Cornelius Castoriadis / World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination (1997)
Bernard Stiegler / Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (1998)
Giorgio Agamben / Potentialities (1999)
Jean-Luc Nancy / Being Singular Plural (2000)
Niklas Luhmann / Art as a Social System (2000)
Ernst Bloch / The Spirit of Utopia (2000)
Ernst Bloch / Traces (2006)
Cornelius Castoriadis / Figures of the Thinkable (2007)
Bernard Stiegler / Technics and Time, 2: Disorientation (2009)
Bernard Stiegler / Technics and Time, 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise (2010)

And it's good to have many English translations from the Maurice Blanchot corpus:
The Work of Fire (1995)
Friendship (1997)
w Jacques Derrida / The Instant of My Death/Demeure: Fiction and Testimony (2000)
Faux Pas (2001)
The Book to Come (2003)
Lautréamont and Sade (2004)

Zone Books/The MIT Press

Tops of my all-time favorite presses.  Not a series per se, but I must include it here.  Again in 1991 as a latecomer, I found out about its outstanding books, which began to be published in 1987.

It did have an early series:
Michel Feher, Sanford Kwinter eds. / Zone 1/2: The Contemporary City (1987)
Michel Feher, Ramona Naddaff, Nadia Tazi eds. / Zone 3: Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Part 1 (1989)
Michel Feher, Ramona Naddaff, Nadia Tazi eds. / Zone 4: Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Part 2 (1989)
Michel Feher, Ramona Naddaff, Nadia Tazi eds. / Zone 5: Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Part 3 (1989)
Jonathan Crary, Sanford Kwinter eds. / Zone 6: Incorporations (1992)
These and some subsequent ones were designed by Bruce Mau, which are still benchmarks of book design, of the possibilities of combining art and theory.  These are must haves. 

Rem Koolhaas' S, M, L, XL (The Monacelli Press, 1995), in collaboration with Bruce Mau, was modeled after Zone 1-6.

But that's not all, far from it.  Some of the most important "classics" of critico-historical and philosophical thinking as well as contemporary intellects are represented.  These books are just as much about the relation to contemporaneity itself, if not moves against epistemic or paradigmatic conclusions. 

My favorite books:
Pierre Clastres / Society Against the State (1987)
Henri Bergson / Matter and Memory (1988)
Georges Bataille / The Accursed Share, Volume I (1988)
Jean-Pierre Vernant, Pierre Vidal-Naquet / Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece (1988)
Jean-Pierre Vernant / Myth and Society in Ancient Greece (1988)
Georges Canguilhem / The Normal and the Pathological (1989)
Gilles Deleuze / Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (1990)
Caroline Walker Bynum / Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (1990)
Erwin Panofsky / Perspective as Symbolic Form (1991)
Georges Bataille / The Accursed Share, Volumes II & III (1992)
Guy Debord / The Society of the Spectacle (1994)
Marcel Detienne / The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece (1996)
Giorgio Agamben / Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (1999)
Nicole Loraux / The Divided City: On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens (2001)
Siegfried Kracauer / Jacques Offenbach and the Paris of His Time (2003)
Alois Reigl / Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts (2004)
Jean-Pierre Vernant / Myth and Thought among the Greeks (2006)

Semiotext(e) Intervention/The MIT Press

Post-Contemporary Interventions/Duke University Press

Fredric Jameson's now classic Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) was my introduction.  It was followed by Slavoj Žižek's Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology (1993).  Since then, Žižek has made quite a name for himself, though his early works couldn't but signify his later popularity. 

Quite a range of subjects, but honestly, I've been particular.  Other interesting books in the series for me:
Kojin Karatani / Origins of Modern Japanese Literature (1993)
William Arctander O'Brien / Novalis: Signs of Revolution (1994)
Jean Baudrillard / Cool Memories II, 1987-1990 (1996)
Linda Schulte-Sasse / Entertaining the Third Reich: Illusions of Wholeness in Nazi Cinema (1996)
Claude Lefort / Writing: The Political Test (2000)
Michael Lowy, Robert Sayre / Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity (2001)
Victor Segalen / Essay on Exoticism: An Aesthetics of Diversity (2002)
Angelo Restivo / The Cinema of Economic Miracles: Visuality and Modernization in the Italian Art Film (2002)
Esther Sanchez-Pardo / Cultures of the Death Drive: Melanie Klein and Modernist Melancholia (2003)
Nelly Richard / Masculine/Feminine: Practices of Difference(s) (2004)

Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought/The MIT Press

I haven't kept up, although I should.  I never got into Jürgen Habermas, and I'm not the biggest fan of Adorno and Horkheimer these days. 

However, there are some important works by the authors of Dialectic of Enlightenment:
Theodor W. Adorno / Prisms (1982)
Theodor W. Adorno / Against Epistemology: A Metacritique.  Studies in Husserl and the Phenomenological Antimonies (1982)
Theodor W. Adorno / Hegel: Three Studies (1993)
Max Horkheimer / Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings (1993)

Also, there is Rolf Wiggershaus' tome, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance (1995).

Also included are interesting works by Hans-George Gadamer, Hans Blumenburg, Reinhart Kosellek, Axel Honneth, Albrecht Wellmer, as well as Carl Schmitt and Herbert Marcuse's again hard to find Hegel's Ontology and the Theory of Historicity (1989).

I became interested in the series through Adorno and Habermas, but mainly through studies of Walter Benjamin such as Susan Buck-Morss' precocious The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989) and three works of Ernst Bloch. 

I recommend Bloch's Natural Law and Human Dignity (1986) and his essays comprising The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays (1987).  However, in my opinion, The Principle of Hope (1986), his magnum opus, published in three volumes, is absolutely essential, the greatest achievement of the series.  The severe dark slipcased cloth volumes are difficult to find nowadays, and I was happy to locate and get it all mint and seemingly untouched at the University of Chicago Seminary Co-op bookstore in 1995. 

Studies in Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy/Northwestern University Press

In many respects, this is an inestimable series. 

Here's some key works:
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / The Primacy of Perception (1964)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Signs (1964)
Paul Ricoeur / Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary (1966)
Paul Ricoeur / Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology (1967)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / The Visible and the Invisible (1969)
Edmund Husserl / The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1970)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Adventures of the Dialectic (1973)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / The Prose of the World (1973)
Max Scheler / Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values OSI (1973)
Paul Ricoeur / The Conflict of Interpretations (1974)
Edmund Husserl / Experience and Judgment (1975)
Jacques Derrida / Speech and Phenomena: And Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs (1979)
Jean Hyppolite / Genesis and Structure of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1979)
Roman Ingarden / The Literary Work of Art (1979)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language (1979)
Roman Ingarden / Cognition of the Literary Work of Art (1980)
Gabriel Marcel / Tragic Wisdom and Beyond (1980)
Selected Prose: The Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre (1985)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / In Praise of Philosophy and Other Essays (1988)
Mikal Defrenne / The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience (1989)
Galen A. Johnson, Michael B. Smith eds. / Ontology and Alterity in Merleau-Ponty (1990)
Pierre Klossowski / Sade My Neighbor (1991)
Paul Ricoeur / From Text to Action (1991)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Sense and Non-Sense (1992)
Paul Ricoeur / History and Truth (1992)
Max Scheler / Selected Philosophical Essays (1992)
Martin Heidegger / Heraclitus Seminar (1993)
Galen A. Johnson ed. / The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting (1994)
Emmanuel Levinas / Theory of Intuition in Husserl's Phenomenology (1995)
Dominique Janicaud / The Shadow of That Thought (1996)
Hans Jonas / Mortality and Morality: A Search for Good After Auschwitz (1996)
Emmanuel Levinas / Discovering Existence with Husserl (1998)
Jean-Luc Marion / Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology (1998)
Jon Stewart ed. / Miscellaneous Writings of G.W.F. Hegel (2000)
Martin Heidegger / Zollikon Seminars: Protocols-Conversations-Letters (2001)
Hans Jonas / The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology (2001)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology (2001)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Nature: Course Notes from the College de France (2003)
László Tengelyi / The Wild Region in Life-History (2004)
Alphonso Lingis / The First Person Singular (2007)
Leonard Lawlor, Ted Toadvine eds. / The Merleau-Ponty Reader (2007)
Paul Ricoeur / From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II (2007)
Adrian Johnston / Žižek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity (2008)
Max Scheler / The Human Place in the Cosmos (2008)
Mikal Dufrenne / The Notion of the A Priori (2009)
Jacques Derrida / Voice and Phenomenon: Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl's Phenomenology (2010)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Child Psychology and Pedogogy: The Sorbonne Lectures 1949-1952 (2010)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty / Institution and Passivity: Course Notes from the College de France (1954-1955) (2010)

Agora Editions 

Avant-garde and Modernism Studies 

Brigham Young University - Islamic Translation 

October Books 

Short Circuits