Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)
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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.
University of Kentucky Press, 1954), 3–18. 14. Walter Benjamin, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften,” in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991), 1:123–201, here 125; “Goethe’s Elective Affinities,” trans. Stanley Corngold, in Selected Writings, vol. 1, 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 297–360, here 297. 15. Benjamin, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften,” 126; “Goethe’s
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perspective, the possibility of thinking an object is predicated on givenness and determinative thinking. An object emerges only when something encounters or is encountered and when this encountering or encountered something is determined in thinking. It is here that the conditions of possibility of cognition (Erkenntnis) are met. Heidegger calls this a transcendental perspective. A metaphysical perspective might ask where these two elements came from, how they developed, and so on. A
pictures are wonderful, pictures are indispensable, but they are torture as well.”3 To confront the photograph, as Kafka just did—in the darkness or darkroom of the night from December 6 through 7, 1912—always also is to confront a moment of unsettling, a moment in which the photograph, in its refusal to yield its non-self-identity to our identity-seeking gaze, unsettles us by unsettling itself. I wish to set in motion a polylogue among Derrida and the figures whose proper names frame his own in
of it,” the aftermath must always be traversed by a simultaneous withdrawal and refusal in which the image insists on its own non-self-identity and on its prismatic refraction and programmatic dispersal of any concept of unified sense. What remains of our encounter with the withdrawal and dispersal that are lodged at the heart of the image is what Benjamin refers to as the moment of the being-no-longer and what Blanchot, as if echoing Benjamin, names the image’s “sordid basis upon which it