Jeffrey R. Di Leo on a new essay collection that explores the legacy of critical theory since the deaths of some of its leading figures

How did you come to put together Dead Theory?

Jeffrey R. Di Leo (ed.), Dead Theory: Derrida, Death, and the Afterlife of Theory (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Jeffrey R. Di Leo (ed.), Dead Theory: Derrida, Death, and the Afterlife of Theory (Bloomsbury, 2016)

I was writing a review of Vincent Leitch’s Living with Theory (2008) several years ago and could not help thinking that the opposite might also be the case, namely, that we are “dying with theory.”  At the time, it was nothing more than a passing thought, but one that stuck in my head.  A few years later, when I was reading about “critical climate change” and the proposal that the time scale and size of climate change calls for an entirely new critical language the thought came back.

It was a volume edited by Tom Cohen on the topic of critical climate change published by Open Humanities Press (Telemorphosis: Theory in the Area of Climate Change, Vol. 1, 2012).  I wrote an essay for symplokē on the subject entitled “Can Theory Save the Planet” (2013).  The subject of whether the work of philosophers like Derrida, who were now deceased, could have any bearing on current discussions in critical climate change intrigued me.  As I started to discuss this issue with some of my colleagues as well as the topic of “dying with theory,” the idea of a collection of essays on dead theory began to take shape. (more…)

A new title refines and condenses more than a decade of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s thinking on Beckett

Jean-Michel Rabaté , Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human (Fordham University Press, 2016)
Jean-Michel Rabaté , Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human (Fordham University Press, 2016)
Glancing at the title of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s excellent new book, you might be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of self-help manual from the shelf of tough love. The author clears up any confusion: “This is not a self-help book”, he writes; rather it undermines such projects of affirmation by “questioning the humanism that we take for granted”. Through the motif of the “animal”, Samuel Beckett’s prose and drama re-examines what it means to be human in the aftermath of the Second World War. Think, Pig! (Pozzo’s demoralizing order to Lucky in Waiting for Godot) refines and condenses more than a decade of Rabaté’s thinking on Beckett. The book’s focus is ethical and interrogative, but is peppered with a lively and inventive sense of humour. [Read More]

This extract is from my review of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human, published in the Times Literary Supplement, 14 October 2016.

A refreshing new look at the writings of the Nobel laureate
jan-wilm-slow-philosophy-jm-coetzee.jpg
Jan Wilm, The Slow Philosophy of J. M. Coetzee
In The Slow Philosophy of J.M. Coetzee Jan Wilm analyses Coetzee’s singular aesthetic style which, he argues, provokes the reader to read his works slowly. The effected ‘slow reading’ is developed into a method specifically geared to analyzing Coetzee’s singular oeuvre, and it is shown that his works productively decelerate the reading process only to dynamize the reader’s reflexion in a way that may be termed philosophical. Drawing on fresh archival material, this is the first study of its kind to explore Coetzee’s writing process as already slow; as a program of seemingly relentless revision which brings forth his uniquely dense and crystalline style. Through the incorporation of material from drafts and notebooks, this study is also the first to combine an exploration of the writer’s stylistic choices with a rigorous analysis of the reader’s responses. The book includes close readings of Coetzee’s popular and lesser known work, including Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians, Elizabeth Costello, Life and Times of Michael K and Slow Man.

(more…)