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Logics of Separation

Exile and Transcendence in Aesthetic Modernity


Michael Stone-Richards

This book is made up of a set of innovative close readings and meditations on the significance of the modes and logics of separation in the thinking of aesthetic modernity. Separation is defined in Hegelian and psychoanalytic terms as psychic processes in the formation of identity that necessarily entail self-division and estrangement in the emergence of subjectivity and social identity. This phenomenon, called subjection, has been at the core of psychoanalytic readings since the work of Melanie Klein.
The works under consideration in the volume include material by W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James, Ralph Ellison, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Paul Celan, as well as the sorrow songs/Negro Spirituals. In each case the moment of passivity and modes of separation are approached as sites of inescapable conflict. The varying psychic, ethical, and political tensions underwriting this experience are examined in detail for each case study.


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Introduction - Transcendence and the Work of Separation -1


Introduction Transcendence and the Work of Separation The infinite is not something in general that is beyond what we know as actual. It is the fact that what is beyond the finite comes back, and accomplishes a return to the finite and keeps on doing this, that makes it a true infinity.1 — C.L.R. James, Notes on Dialectics This book is a set of studies of separation as a feature of the experience of aesthetic modernity. Though undoubtedly inf luenced by accounts of the structural dimension of modernity developed by Anthony Giddens and Michel Foucault (the development of the nation-state complex, the monopolization of violence by the governing authority of the nation-state, that modernity understood as the process of modernization, the passage from the ancien régime, is underwritten by industrialization of which capi- talism is a by-product), the studies in the book are not first and foremost concerned with this structural dimension of modernity, but instead with the aesthetic dimension of experience under modernity and as such, it will be argued, experiences in an aporetic relationship with the structural dimension of modernity. The works studied – Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée, the Sorrow Songs/Negro Spirituals, W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon on the question of splitting and the work of separation – enable an approach that moves between the structural and the aesthetic as a relation marked by incommensurability and aporia. With the concluding essay on Fanon, temporality and the question of man (l’homme en question, as 1 C.L.R. James, Notes...

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