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Literature and Weak Thought

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Andrzej Zawadzki

This book is a reconstruction and presentation of the fundamental assumptions of the so-called weak thought, as elaborated mainly by the Italian hermeneutical philosopher Gianni Vattimo and the Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica in his ontology. Both Noica and Vattimo focus on all that is existentially fragile, deficient, crippled or defective. The way in which weak being manifests itself can be best expressed by using the concept of the trace. Some motifs of weak thought serve to reinterpret certain fundamental concepts of poetics, firstly, the concept of mimesis, treated here as a kind of tracing, and secondly, the concept of the textual subject as a trace. The book also describes these tendencies in modern literature in which the intuition of weak being has most fully expressed itself. In general terms, this intuition is that of a reality that has lost its substantiality and essentiality. This intuition is most frequently expressed by the motif of the trace in its various different meanings: as the imprint, the remnant, the sign-message.

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Preface .................................................................................................................. 7 I. WEAK THOUGHT: PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS ..................... 11 Introduction ......................................................................................................... 11 Noica: The Romanian Fragility of Being ........................................................... 24 Vattimo: Nihilism, Hermeneutics, Art ................................................................ 47 Weak Thought in the Context of Philosophical and Cultural Tradition ..... 55 The Weakening of Nietzsche ............................................................ 56 Nietzsche, Marx, Emancipation ........................................................ 57 Between Dialectical Reason and Hermeneutical Reason ................. 64 Nietzsche, Heidegger, Hermeneutics ................................................ 69 Weak Thought and Post-Structuralism ............................................. 73 A Lexicon of Weak Thought: Verwindung, Andenken, pietas ................... 78 Nihilism and Hermeneutics ........................................................................ 92 The Death of Art, Death in Art ................................................................. 109 The Abyss of Language .................................................................. 117 II. THE WEAK ONTOLOGY OF THE LITERARY WORK .................. 125 Introduction ....................................................................................................... 125 Imitating as Tracing the World ......................................................................... 131 The Three Forms of Mimesis in Plato’s Philosophy ................................ 131 The Republic: The Mimesis of Participation .................................. 132 The Sophist: The Mimesis of Similarity ......................................... 139 The Theaetetus: The Mimesis of the Trace ..................................... 146 The Ethics of the Trace ................................................................... 152 The Three Versions of the Trace in Contemporary Philosophy ..... 156 Appendix: Plato’s Mimetic Triangle ............................................... 163 Sketching the Author ................................................................................ 167 The Crisis of the Subject: Difference, Interpretation, Critical Point ... 167 6 Table of contents The “Unfortunate Contradiction” of Modern Subjectivity – A Provisional Diagnosis ............................................................... 172 The Author’s Traits: The Trace as a New Formula for the Presence of the Subject in a Text ........................................ 176 III. MODERN LITERATURE AND TRACES .......................................... 183 Introduction ....................................................................................................... 183 “Tracing the Traces”: An Overview of Weak Ontology in Polish Literature of the Twentieth Century .................................................. 184 “Nothing Comes Before Something”: Nihilism before Nihilism ............. 185 “Impoverishment, Weakening, Disintegration”: Weak Form in Twentieth-Century Art ..................................................... 188 “The Disappearance of the Contents of the World” ................................. 191...

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