‘Philosophy & Modernism’ by Bloomsbury Academic | 11 Volume Collection

The aim of each volume in Understanding Philosophy, Understanding Modernism is to understand a philosophical thinker more fully through literary and cultural modernism and consequently to understand literary modernism better through a key philosophical figure.

In this way, the series also rethinks the limits of modernism, calling attention to lacunae in modernist studies and sometimes in the philosophical work under examination. The unique structure of the volumes allows the term “understanding” to describe an introductory knowledge of a field and a figure for advanced students and scholars new to the subject, while at the same time describing the evolving “understanding” scholars in a field gain with the publication of a new body of work by leading experts.

This multi-level understanding emerges from a three-part division of each volume. The first part conceptualizes the volume’s key figure by offering close readings of their central philosophical texts. The second section on aesthetics resembles a more traditional edited collection by bringing together new research by diverse international scholars aimed at mapping relationships between the thought of a key philosophical figure and the literary work of a variety of modernist texts. The final section of each volume is an extended glossary of the philosopher’s key terms. In a departure from conventional glossaries, however, the entries are mini-essays in themselves, allowing a real engagement with the many, sometimes contradictory, ways the figure has applied the terms. Each definition has its own expert contributor.

Includes volumes on Jacques Rancière, Friedrich Nietzsche, Maurice Blanchot, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, William James, Karl Marx, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Henri Bergson & Gilles Deleuze. The volumes on Merleau-Ponty, Vilém Flusser & Stanley Cavell are not yet available.


Volume I: Jacques Rancière



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The contemporary philosopher Jacques Rancière has become over the last two decades one of the most influential voices in philosophy, political theory, and literary, art historical, and film criticism. His work reexamines the divisions that have defined our understanding of modernity, such as art and politics, representation and abstraction, and literature and philosophy. Working across these divisions, he engages the historical roots of modernism at the end of the eighteenth century, uncovering forgotten texts in the archive that trouble our notions of intellectual history.

The contributors to this volume engage with the multiplicity of Rancière’s thought through close readings of his texts, through comparative readings with other philosophers, and through an engagement with modernist works of art and literature. The final section of the volume includes an extended glossary of the most important terms used by Rancière, which will be a valuable resource for experts and students alike.


Volume II: Friedrich Nietzsche



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Friedrich Nietzsche believed his own work represented the dawning of a new historical era, and, despite the fact that he lived most of his sane life suffering in obscurity, it is not an exaggeration to say that his vision helped lay the foundations for modernism in style, substance and attitude. Nietzsche was himself devoted to the modern, for he reinterpreted every philosophy, every historical figure and event, every movement that came before him. This reconceptualization of the past through new, modern eyes opened up Nietzsche’s thinking to exploring daring possibilities for the future. This prophetic boldness, which is so unique to his style, seduced the modernist generation across the spectrum. He was read by early Zionists as well as by Nazi racial theorists; by Thomas Mann and as well as by Salvador Dali. His influence stretched from psychoanalysis to anarchist politics.

This volume traces the effect of Nietzsche’s thinking upon a diverse set of problems: from ontology, to politics, to musical and literary aesthetics. The first section of the volume is a series of essays, each exploring a major work of Nietzsche’s, explaining its significance while contributing new interpretations of the text. The middle portion connects Nietzsche’s thought to the various strands of modernism in which it reveals itself. The final section is a glossary of key terms that Nietzsche uses throughout his works. An excellent resource for any scholar attempting to conceptualize the foundations of modernism or the historical importance of Nietzsche, this volume seeks to outline the philosopher’s works and their reception amongst the generations that immediately followed his passing.


Volume III: Maurice Blanchot



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Maurice Blanchot occupies a central though still-overlooked position in the Anglo-American reception of 20th-century continental philosophy and literary criticism. On the one hand, his rigorous yet always-playful exchanges with the most challenging figures of the philosophical and literary canons of modernity have led thinkers such as Georges Bataille, Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault to acknowledge Blanchot as a major influence on the development of literary and philosophical culture after World War II.

On the other hand, Blanchot’s reputation for frustrating readers with his difficult style of thought and writing has resulted in a missed opportunity for leveraging Blanchot in advancing the most essential discussions and debates going on today in the comparative study of literature, philosophy, politics, history, ethics, and art. Blanchot’s voice is simply too profound, too erudite, and too illuminating of what is at stake at the intersections of these disciplines not to be exercising more of an influence than it has in only a minority of intellectual circles.

This volume brings together an international cast of leading and emergent scholars in making the case for precisely what contemporary modernist studies stands to gain from close inspection of Blanchot’s provocative post-war writings.


Volume IV: Theodor Adorno



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Having studied philosophy at a time when its traditions were being seriously uprooted by the atrocities of World War II, Theodor Adorno had an enormous impact on thinking about aesthetics at a transitional historical moment when the philosophy of science and leftist politics were looking for new ground. Moreover, with his focus on the rise of commercial culture and its effects on identity-construction, Adorno can be said to have reinvigorated modernist concerns by introducing the prevailing terms in our contemporary versions of cultural politics and cultural studies.

This volume traces Adorno’s social and aesthetic ideas as they appear and reappear in his corpus. As per other volumes in the series, this book is divided into three parts. The first, “Adorno’s Keywords,” is organized by the aesthetic terms around which Adorno’s philosophy circulates. The second section is devoted to “Adorno and Aesthetics.” While Adorno’s philosophical viewpoints influenced modernism’s evolution into the 21st century, the history of modernist aesthetics also shaped his philosophical approaches. The third and final part, “Adorno’s Constellations,” discusses how aesthetic form in Adorno’s thinking underlies the terms of his social analysis.


Volume V: Jacques Derrida



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This volume makes a significant contribution to both the study of Derrida and of modernist studies. The contributors argue, first, that deconstruction is not “modern”; neither is it “postmodern” nor simply “modernist.” They also posit that deconstruction is intimately connected with literature, not because deconstruction would be a literary way of doing philosophy, but because literature stands out as a “modern” notion. The contributors investigate the nature and depth of Derrida’s affinities with writers such as Joyce, Kafka, Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, Paul Celan, Maurice Blanchot, Theodor Adorno, Samuel Beckett, and Walter Benjamin, among others.

With its strong connection between philosophy and literary modernism, this highly original volume advances modernist literary study and the relationship of literature and philosophy.


Volume VI: Michel Foucault



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Michel Foucault continues to be regarded as one of the most essential thinkers of the twentieth century. A brilliantly evocative writer and conceptual creator, his influence is clearly discernible today across nearly every discipline-philosophy and history, certainly, as well as literary and critical theory, religious and social studies, and the arts. This volume exploits Foucault’s insistent blurring of the self-imposed limits formed by the disciplines, with each author in this volume discovering in Foucault’s work a model useful for challenging not only these divisions but developing a more fundamental interrogation of modernism. Foucault himself saw the calling into question of modernism to be the permanent task of his life’s work, thereby opening a path for rethinking the social.

This volume shows, on the one hand, that literature and the arts play a fundamental structural role in Foucault’s works, while, on the other hand, it shifts to the foreground what it presumes to be motivating Foucault: the interrogation of the problem of modernism. To that end, even his most explicitly historical or strictly epistemological and methodological enquiries directly engage the problem of modernism through the works of writers and artists from de Sade, Mallarmé, Baudelaire to Artaud, Manet, Borges, Roussel, and Bataille. This volume, therefore, adopts a transdisciplinary approach, as a way to establish connections between Foucault’s thought and the aesthetic problems that emerge out of those specific literary and artistic works, methods, and styles designated “modern.”

The aim of this volume is to provide a resource for students and scholars not only in the fields of literature and philosophy, but as well those interested in the intersections of art and intellectual history, religious studies, and critical theory.


Volume VII: William James



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Psychologist, philosopher, teacher, writer-William James stood closer than any other thinker to the center of the confluence of intellectual and artistic forces that defined the culture of modernism. The outstanding feature of this volume lies in its intent to investigate James’s influence on both American and International Modernism. It provides, on the one hand, a multifaceted introduction to students of history, philosophy, and culture, and on the other, a compendium of some of the most up-to-date thinking on this central figure.

James’s first book, Principles of Psychology (1890) immediately established James as the leading psychologist of his time, at a moment in history when psychology seemed to offer the promise of finding some definitive answers to eternal philosophical conundra. James’s innovations would register a clear effect on much modernist art, most evidently in the stylistic prose experiments of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and their imitators. James’s tentative skepticism concerning the concept of consciousness as such, and the post-Cartesian ego that was its foundation, also anticipates the questioning of the subject that would be the theme of much modern, and indeed postmodern thought.

The contributors to this volume explore James’s most essential texts as well as his influence on contemporary writers, artists, and thinkers. The final section is a glossary of James’s key terms, with entries written by leading experts.


Volume VIII: Karl Marx



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A concentrated study of the relationships between modernism and transformative left utopianism, this volume provides an introduction to Marx and Marxism for modernists, and an introduction to modernism for Marxists. Its guiding hypothesis is that Marx’s writing absorbed the lessons of artistic and cultural modernity as much as his legacy concretely shaped modernism across multiple media.


Volume IX: Ludwig Wittgenstein



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In the last half-century Ludwig Wittgenstein’s relevance beyond analytic philosophy, to continental philosophy, to cultural studies, and to the arts has been widely acknowledged.

Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was published in 1922 – the annus mirabilis of modernism – alongside Joyce’s Ulysses, Eliot’s The Waste Land, Mansfield’s The Garden Party and Woolf’s Jacob’s Room. Bertolt Brecht’s first play to be produced, Drums in the Night, was first staged in 1922, as was Jean Cocteau’s Antigone, with settings by Pablo Picasso and music by Arthur Honegger. In different ways, all these modernist landmarks dealt with the crisis of representation and the demise of eternal metaphysical and ethical truths. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus can be read as defining, expressing and reacting to this crisis. In his later philosophy, Wittgenstein adopted a novel philosophical attitude, sensitive to the ordinary uses of language as well as to the unnoticed dogmas they may betray. If the gist of modernism is self-reflection and attention to the way form expresses content, then Wittgenstein’s later ideas – in their fragmented form as well as their “ear-opening” contents – deliver it most precisely.

This volume shows Wittgenstein’s work, both early and late, to be closely linked to the modernist Geist that prevailed during his lifetime. Yet it would be wrong to argue that Wittgenstein was a modernist tout court. For Wittgenstein, as well as for modernist art, understanding is not gained by such straightforward statements. It needs time, hesitation, a variety of articulations, the refusal of tempting solutions, and perhaps even a sense of defeat. It is such a vision of the linkage between Wittgenstein and modernism that guides the present volume.


Volume X: Henri Bergson



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Henri Bergson is frequently cited amongst the holy trinity of major influences on Modernism-literary and otherwise-alongside Sigmund Freud and William James. Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism has re-popularized Bergson for the 21st century, so much so that, perhaps, our Bergson is Deleuze’s Bergson.

Despite renewed interest in Bergson, his influence remains understudied and consequently undervalued. While books examining the impact of Freud and James on Modernism abound, Bergson’s impact, though widely acknowledged, has been closely examined much more rarely. This volume remedies this deficiency in three ways. First, it offers close readings and critiques of six pivotal texts. Second, it reassesses Bergson’s impact on Modernism while also tracing his continuing importance to literature, media, and philosophy throughout the twentieth and into the 21st century. In its final section it provides an extended glossary of Bergsonian terms, complete with extensive examples and citations of their use across his texts. The glossary also maps the influence of Bergson’s work by including entries on related writers, all of whom Bergson either corresponded with or critiqued.


Volume XI: Gilles Deleuze



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This volume explores the multi-faceted and formative impact of Gilles Deleuze on the development and our understanding of modernist thought in its philosophical, literary, and more broadly cultural manifestations.

Gilles Deleuze himself rethought philosophical history with a series of books and essays on individual philosophers such as Kant, Spinoza, Leibniz, Nietzsche, and Bergson and authors such as Proust, Kafka, Beckett and Woolf, on the one hand, and Bacon, Messiaen, and Pollock, among others, in other arts. This volume acknowledges Deleuze’s profound impact on a century of art and thought and the origin of that impact in his own understanding of modernism.

This book begins by “conceptualizing” Deleuze by offering close readings of some of his most important works. The contributors offer new readings that illuminate the context of Deleuze’s work, either by reading one of Deleuze’s texts against or in the context of his entire body of work or by challenging Deleuze’s readings of other philosophers. A central section on Deleuze and his aesthetics maps the relationships between Deleuze’s thought and modernist literature. The volume’s final section features an extended glossary of Deleuze’s key terms, with each definition having its own expert contributor.

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