‘Inwardness and Existence: Subjectivity in/and Hegel, Heidegger, Marx, and Freud’ by Walter A. Davis

Published by University of Wisconsin Press in 1989.


Inwardness and Existence accomplishes what no book before or after has even approximated: it demonstrates with great lucidity and insight the shared philosophical project that animates psychoanalysis, Marxism, existentialism, and Hegelian dialectics. Davis roots the reader in the enterprise of questioning what is given and probing beyond what is safe in order to demonstrate that psychoanalytic inquiry, Marxist politics, existential reflection, and dialectical connection all move within the same orbit. No one who reads it will ever think about existence itself in the same way again. Davis’s landmark work will profoundly transform anyone who reads it.”

—Todd McGowan, author of The Real Gaze: Film Theory after Lacan

If a great book is one that shows you something more and different every time you read it, that changes with every reading because every reading changes you, then Inwardness and Existence is a great book. It’s also a good book, the best kind in fact, the kind you can periodically re-read for the rest of your life. What makes it so special, sets it above most other books written by American academics in the last 30 years? It’s a philosophically rigorous and at times mind-bogglingly ambitious book about the structure and construction of the self. While most academic writing on this subject today begins and ends with Foucault or Lacan and their followers, Davis’s book begins with Hegel and doesn’t really end. The book is circular, like a philosophical Finnegans Wake. It would probably be greatly illuminating to read Inwardness and Existence straight through and then turn immediately back to the first page and begin again, with the foreknowledge constituted by the first reading still fresh in one’s mind.

Walter A. (Mac) Davis is professor emeritus of English at Ohio State University. He is the author of Get the Guests: Psychoanalysis, Modern American Drama, and the Audience, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and Death’s DreamKingdom: The American Psyche Since 9/11.

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