In France at the end of the nineteenth century, progress and material prosperity coincided with widespread alarm about disease and decay. The obsessions of our own culture as the twentieth century came to a close resonate strikingly with those of the last fin-de-siècle: crime, pollution, sexually transmitted diseases, gender confusion, moral depravity, alcoholism, and tobacco and drug use were topics of popular discussion then as now.
Wonders and the Order of Nature is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions—these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout.
Irresistibly charming or shamelessly deceitful, remarkably persuasive or uselessly verbose, everything one loves to hate—or hates to love—about "French lovers" and their self-styled reputation can be traced to eighteenth-century libertine novels. Obsessed with strategies of seduction, speculating endlessly about the motives and goals of lovers, the idle aristocrats who populate these novels are exclusively preoccupied with their erotic life.
Erwin Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form is one of the great works of modern intellectual history, the legendary text that has dominated all art historical and philosophical discussions on the topic of perspective in this century. Finally available in English, it is an unrivaled example of Panofsky's early method that placed him within broader developments in theories of knowledge and cultural change.
The Culture of the Copy is an unprecedented attempt to make sense of our Western fascination with replicas, duplicates, and twins. In a work that is breathtaking in both its synthetic and critical achievements, Hillel Schwartz charts the repercussions of our entanglement with copies of all kinds, whose presence alternately sustains and overwhelms us.
The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece, the acclaimed French classicist Marcel Detienne's first book, traces the odyssey of "truth," aletheia, from mytho-religious concept to philosophical thought in archaic Greece.
In this strikingly original contribution to our understanding of Chinese philosophy, Françle;ois Julien, a French sinologist whose work has not yet appeared in English uses the Chinese concept of shi—meaning disposition or circumstance, power or potential—as a touchstone to explore Chinese culture and to uncover the intricate and coherent structure underlying Chinese modes of thinking.
Few works of political and cultural theory have been as enduringly provocative as Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle. From its publication amid the social upheavals of the 1960s up to the present, the volatile theses of this book have decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism and everyday life in the late twentieth cenlury.
Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965) was already an established neuropsychologist when he emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1930s. This book, his magnum opus and widely regarded as a modern classic in psychology and biology, grew out of his dissatisfaction with traditional natural science techniques for analyzing living beings. It offers a broad introduction to the sources and ranges of application of the "holistic" or "organismic" research program that has since become a standard part of biological thought.
This book by the legendary Situationist activist is a fiercely partisan historical reflection on the ways religious and economic forces have shaped Western culture. Within this broad frame, Raoul Vaneigem examines the heretical and millennarian movements that challenged social and ecclesiastical authority in Europe from the 1200s into the 1500s. At the core of these heresies, Vaneigem sees not only resistance to the power of State and Church but also the immensely creative intention of new forms of love, sexuality, community and exchange.
In the 1990s, questions of sex roles and individual identity have taken a central position in intellectual debates. These eleven essays in history and anthropology offer a novel perspective on these debates by questioning the place of sexual dimorphism in culture and history. They propose a new role for the study of alternative sex and gender systems in cultural science, as a means of critiquing thinking that privileges standard male/female gender distinctions and rejects the natural basis of other forms of sexuality.
Georges Canguilhem (1904-1995) was one of France's foremost historians of science. Trained as a medical doctor as well as a philosopher, he combined these practices to demonstrate to philosophers that there could be no epistemology without concrete study of the actual development of the sciences and to historians that there could be no worthwhile history of science without a philosophical understanding of the conceptual basis of all knowledge.
The three volumes of The Accursed Share address what Georges Bataille sees as the paradox of utility: namely, if being useful means serving a further end, then the ultimate end of utility can only be uselessness. The first volume of The Accursed Share, the only one published before Bataille's death, treated this paradox in economic terms, showing that "it is not necessity but its contrary, luxury, that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems."
In America today the intense and controversial debate over the censorship of pornography continues to call into question the values of a modern, democratic culture. This ground-breaking collection of ten critical essays traces the history and various uses of pornography in early modern Europe, offering the historical perspective crucial to understanding current issues of artistic censorship.
"This book version of La Jetée is, to my mind, astonishingly beautiful. It brings a total freshness to the work and a new way to use photos to deal with dramatic events. Not a film's book, but a book in its own right—the real ciné-roman announced in the film's credits."
Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), the brilliant French physiologist, developed photographic techniques for the study of animal locomotion that directly influenced the invention of cinematography. His work and the images he created are among the very sources of modernity, yet his own history and background remain obscure. Marey's strange story emerges in this fascinating account of a voyage of scientific and aesthetic study that would have reverberations in many aspects of modern culture.
These seven essays by noted historian Caroline Walker Bynum exemplify her argument that historians must write in a "comic" mode, aware of history's artifice, risks, and incompletion. Exploring a diverse array of medieval texts, the essays show how women were able to appropriate dominant social symbols in ways that revised and undercut them, allowing their own creative and religious voices to emerge. Taken together, they provide a model of how to account for gender in studying medieval texts and offer a new interpretation of the role of asceticism and mysticism in Christianity.
In this classic meditation on the problem of style in art history, Henri Focillon describes how art forms change over time. Although he argues that the development of art is irreducible to external political, social, or economic determinants, one of his great achievements was to lodge a concept of autonomous formal mutation within the shifting domain of materials and techniques. Focillon emphasizes the presence of nonsynchronous tendencies within styles that give to artworks a manifold and stratified character.
Theory of Religion, along with its companion volumes of The Accursed Share, forms the cornerstone of Bataille's "Copernican" project to overturn not only economic thought but its ethical foundations as well. No other work of Bataille's has managed so incisively to draw the links between man's religious and economic activities.
Expressionism in Philosophy is both a pivotal reading of Spinoza's work and also a crucial text within the development of Deleuze's own thought. It was the culmination of a series of monographic studies by Deleuze (on Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche, Proust, Kant, and Sacher-Masoch), and it prepared the transition from these abstract treatments of historical schemes of experience to the nomadology of Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
The Normal and the Pathological is one of the crucial contributions to the history of science in the last half century. It takes as its starting point the sudden appearance of biology as a science in the 19th-century and examines the conditions determining its particular makeup.
Most Anglo-American readers know Bataille as a novelist. The Accursed Share provides an excellent introduction to Bataille the philosopher. Here he uses his unique economic theory as the basis for an incisive inquiry into the very nature of civilization. Unlike conventional economic models based on notions of scarcity, Bataille's theory develops the concept of excess: a civilization, he argues, reveals its order most clearly in the treatment of its surplus energy.