Foucault – The Punitive Society

Michel Foucault – The Punitive Society: Lectures at the Collège de France 1972-1973. [EN 2015] A lettre de cachet, ordering incarceration at the Bastille. Source: Frantz Funck-Brentano, Les lettres de cachet à Paris. Étude suivie d’une liste des prisonniers de la Bastille (1659-1789).   The Punitive Society sees work with many of the themes and…

Scarry – The Body in Pain

Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.   Albrecht Dürer, Head of a suffering man, 1503. Dürer left an inscription calling it ‘Head of the Dead Christ’; the drawing’s themes have also been attributed to Dürer’s own illness, and an epidemic disease across France…

Han – Die Müdigkeitsgesellschaft [The Burnout Society]

Han Byung-Chul, Die Müdigkeitsgesellschaft, 2010.  The book was recently translated into English as The Burnout Society; my notes are based on the Korean translation, as the former was not yet available. There are not many false friends in Han’s lexicon here, save the keyword Müdigkeit. Where the English translation has opted for ‘burnout’ – a relatively specific…

Veyne – Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths?

Paul Veyne, Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination, 1988.   Athena in a black-figure vase, attributed Pamphaios, mid-5th century B.C.   Do children at once believe in Santa Claus and the toys as coming from parents? Yes. Ethiopians believe leopards are Christian and observe Coptic fasting days, but take…

Morton – Hyperobjects

Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology at the End of the World. 2013.   J.M.W. Turner, The Slave Ship, 1840.   Hyperobjects is a book about a single concept: objects so ‘big’ – in multiple senses – that they exceed typical human capacity for grasping, comprehending, keeping hold of, controlling, counting, taking account of them. Deriving…

Sheehan – Making Sense of Heidegger

Thomas Sheehan, Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift. 2014.     From Existential Comics, link here. (Please contact me if you are the author and want it gone.) Double points for irony if you know the actual source of that quotation…     I typically deal with primary texts in this site – but this book, with its…

Hansen – Feed-Forward

Mark Hansen, Feed-Forward: On the Future of Twenty-First-Century Media, 2015.   Eadweard [Edward] Muybridge, Boys playing leapfrog, 1887   Feed-Forward is a project to use Whiteheadian philosophy for a philosophy of ‘new’ media. Its central conceit is the notion of 21st century media: media that not only ‘augments’ or otherwise modifies our sensory experience of the world, but undercuts and…

Bakhtin – Rabelais and his World

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World, 1965 [EN 1984]   Gustave Doré’s illustration.   Especially on the first try, Rabelais can read like a relentless wave of examples and close literary analysis. The importance of this long and deep engagement with Rabelais’ writing is central to communicating with Bakhtin. Nevertheless, this summary functions more like a companion, summarising arguments…

Merleau-Ponty – Phenomenology of Perception

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945 [EN 1962] Page numbers and quotes are from the 2013 Donald Landes translation.    Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Children’s Games, 1560.      Phenomenology of Perception [PP] does a fair bit of work to ensure that the neophyte is left floundering for a chapter or two. One grasps at the flurry…

Foucault – The Courage of Truth

Michel Foucault – The Courage of Truth: Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984. [EN 2011]   Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Sokrates, 1787   The Courage of Truth was Foucault’s last set of lectures at the College, concluding three months before his death. It is one of the few writings on one of his last concepts: that of parrhesia…