"It is not, nor it cannot come to good. But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue." Thus spoke Hamlet, one of the great kvetchers of literature. Every day, gripers challenge our patience and compassion. Yet Pollyannas rile us up with their grotesque contentment and unfathomable rejection of protest. Avital Ronell considers how literature and philosophy treat bellyachers, wailers, and grumps--and the complaints they lavish on the rest of us. Combining her trademark jazzy panache with a fearless range of readings, Ronell opens a dialog with readers that discusses thinkers with whom she has directly engaged. Beginning with Hamlet, and with a candid awareness of her own experiences, Ronell proceeds to show how complaining is aggravated, distracted, stifled, and transformed. She moves on to the exemplary complaints of Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, and Barbara Johnson and examines the complaint-riven history of deconstruction. Infused with the author's trademark wit, Complaint takes friends, colleagues, and all of us on a courageous philosophical journey.
Avital Ronell asks why "there is no culture without drug culture." She deals with the usual drugs and alcohol (and their celebrities: Freud's cocaine, Baudelaire's hashish, the Victorians' laudanum), and moves beyond them to addictions that are culturally accepted--an insatiable appetite for romance novels, for instance, and romance itself.
It is a commonplace of modern culture to presume that there is a subculture or counterculture deeply saturated with drugs, but such modern cultures need subcultures, and need drugs on every level. Culture defines itself, its classes, its power structures, and its economy in terms of how it allows and encourages drugs to circulate. If drugs are dangerous, that danger seems to increase their appeal for millions. If drugs are unnatural and addictive, gasoline is a drug. What is art but a kind of drug, and what is art criticism but a kind of criticism of drugs and drug-induced states?
Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary takes up the problems of drugs and addiction in numerous ways, which Ronnell unpacks and presents as examples of the safe and unsafe. From Emma Bovary's romantic hallucinations to her suicide by arsenic, she moves through this realistic novel constantly reaching for the unreal. For Ronell, Emma Bovary represents the first addict, embodying a yearning that calls from the bottom of her humanity, and which it seems can only be satisfied by some sort of drug.
Avital Ronell, in conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle University of Illinois Press, 2010 Library of Congress B945.R49A3 2010 | Dewey Decimal 191
International interest in the work of Avital Ronell has expressed itself in reviews, articles, essays, and dissertations. For Fighting Theory, psychoanalyst and philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle conducted twelve interviews with Ronell, each focused on a key topic in one of Ronell's books or on a set of issues that run throughout her work.
What do philosophy and literary studies have to learn from each other? How does Ronell place her work within gender studies? What does psychoanalysis have to contribute to contemporary thought? What propels one in our day to Nietzsche, Derrida, Nancy, Bataille, and other philosophical writers? How important are courage and revolt? Ronell's discussions of such issues are candid, thoughtful, and often personal, bringing together elements from several texts, illuminating hints about them, and providing her up-to-date reflections on what she had written earlier.
Intense and often ironic, Fighting Theory is a poignant self-reflection of the worlds and walls against which Avital Ronell crashed.
There are sons who grow up unhappily believing that no matter what they do, they cannot please their fathers. Often unable to shed their sense of lifelong failure, either they give up and suffer in a permanent sulk, or they try with all their might to prove they are worth something after all. These are the "loser sons," a group of historical men as varied as President George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, and Mohammed Atta. Their names quickly illustrate that not only are their problems serious, but they also make serious problems for others, expanding to whole nations. When God is conceived and inculcated as an angry and impossible-to-please father, the problems can last for generations.
In Loser Sons, Avital Ronell draws on current philosophy, literary history, and political events to confront the grim fact that divested boys become terrifying men. This would be old news if the problem didn't recur so often with such disastrous consequences. Looking beyond our current moment, she interrogates the problems of authority, paternal fantasy, and childhood as they have been explored and exemplified by Franz Kafka, Goethe's Faust, Benjamin Franklin, Jean-François Lyotard, Hannah Arendt, Alexandre Kojève, and Immanuel Kant.
Brilliantly weaving these threads into a polyvocal discourse, Ronell shows how, with their arrays of powerful symbols, ideologies of all sorts perpetuate the theme that while childhood represents innocence, adulthood entails responsible cruelty. The need for suffering--preferably somebody else's--has become a widespread assumption, not only justifying abuses of authority, but justifying authority itself.
Shockingly honest, Loser Sons recognizes that focusing on the spectacular catastrophes of modernity might make writer and reader feel they're engaged in something important, while in fact what they are engaged in is still only spectacle. To understand the implications of her insights, Ronell addresses them directly to her readers, challenging them to think through their own notions of authority and their responses to it.
In The Making of a Terrorist, Jeffrey Champlin examines key figures from three canonical texts from the German-language literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Goethe’s Gotz von Berlichingen, Schiller’s Die Rauber, and Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas. Champlin situates these readings within a larger theoretical and historical context, exploring the mechanics, aesthetics, and poetics of terror while explicating the emergence of the terrorist personality in modernity. In engaging and accessible prose, Champlin explores the ethical dimensions of violence and interrogates an ethics of textual violence.
Edited by Diane Davis University of Illinois Press, 2008 Library of Congress PN75.R65R43 2009 | Dewey Decimal 809
Avital Ronell has won worldwide acclaim for her work across literature and philosophy, psychoanalysis and popular culture, political theory and feminism, art and rhetoric, drugs and deconstruction. In works such as The Test Drive, Stupidity, Crack Wars, and The Telephone Book, she has perpetually raised new and powerful questions about how we think, what thinking does, and how we fool ourselves about the troubled space between thought and action.
In this collection, some of today's most distinguished and innovative thinkers turn their attention to Ronell's teaching, writing, and provocations, observing how Ronell reads and what comes from reading her. By reading Ronell, and reading Ronell reading, contributors examine the ethico-political implications of her radical dislocations and carefully explicate, extend, and explore the paraconcepts addressed in her works.
Avital Ronell University of Illinois Press, 2001 Library of Congress PN56.S737R66 2002 | Dewey Decimal 809.93353
In Stupidity Avital Ronell explores the fading empire of cognition, modulating stupidity into idiocy, puerility, and the figure of the ridiculous philosopher instituted by Kant. Drawing on a range of writers including Dostoevsky, Schlegel, Musil, and Wordsworth, Stupidity investigates ignorance, dumbfounded-ness, and the limits of reason.
The Test Drive
Avital Ronell University of Illinois Press, 2004 Library of Congress BD241.R598 2005 | Dewey Decimal 101
The Test Drive deals with the war perpetrated by highly determined reactionary forces on science and research. How does the government at once promote and prohibit scientific testing and undercut the importance of experimentation? To what extent is testing at the forefront of theoretical and practical concerns today? Addressed to those who are left stranded by speculative thinking and unhinged by cognitive discourse, The Test Drive points to a toxic residue of uninterrogated questions raised by Nietzsche, Husserl and Derrida. Ranging from the scientific probe to modalities of testing that include the limits of friendship or love, this work explores the crucial operations of an uncontestable legitimating machine. Avital Ronell offers a tour-de-force reading of legal, pharmaceutical, artistic, scientific, Zen, and historical grids that depend upon different types of testability, involving among other issues what it means to put oneself to the test.
"Avital Ronell has put together what must be one of the most remarkable critical oeuvres of our era… Zeugmatically yoking the slang of pop culture with philosophical analysis, forcing the confrontation of high literature and technology or drug culture, Avital Ronell produces sentences that startle, irritate, illuminate. At once hilarious and refractory, her books are like no others.”--Jonathan Culler, Diacritics
For twenty years Avital Ronell has stood at the forefront of the confrontation between literary study and European philosophy. She has tirelessly investigated the impact of technology on thinking and writing, with groundbreaking work on Heidegger, dependency and drug rhetoric, intelligence and artificial intelligence, and the obsession with testing. Admired for her insights and breadth of field, she has attracted a wide readership by writing with guts, candor, and wit.
Coyly alluding to Nietzsche’s “gay science,” The ÜberReader presents a solid introduction to Avital Ronell’s later oeuvre. It includes at least one selection from each of her books, two classic selections from a collection of her early essays (Finitude’s Score), previously uncollected interviews and essays, and some of her most powerful published and unpublished talks. An introduction by Diane Davis surveys Ronell’s career and the critical response to it thus far.
With its combination of brevity and power, this Ronell “primer” will be immensely useful to scholars, students, and teachers throughout the humanities, but particularly to graduate and undergraduate courses in contemporary theory.