Fun Friday: Revisiting Four Old Favorites Edition

It’s the end of a crazy busy week. Not much blogging lately–or reading. Nevertheless, with autumnal weather settling in, I start to consider picking longer, more challenging books to read. Here are four new releases (except for the Giedion book) from authors I’ve read and enjoyed before.

Fredric Jameson, The Hegel Variations: On the Phenomenology of the Spirit: Jameson has long been a major influence on me. Like Walter Benjamin, Jameson writes confidently on a broad range of cultural texts. From time to time somebody urges me to focus this blog on one topic, and I respond by pointing to Benjamin and Jameson. I’m still waiting for Jameson to produce a follow up to his magisterial Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, but lately Jameson seems to have retreated into philosophy. Reading Hegel is rough going, but he’s extremely important. It’s not possible to discuss the concept of freedom, for instance, without taking into consideration Hegel’s dialectic of self and other. One can’t think about one’s freedom until he or she acknowledges their dependence on another. Jameson will explain all of this and more.

Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis. My wife is worried about the Daniel Biss sign in our front yard even though Obama carried our home town in 2008, so it’s hard to imagine taking a seat on a commuter train and opening up a book called The Communist Hypothesis, with its Leninist red cover. However, Marxism has made a bit of a comeback among economists since the collapse of the world economy in 2008, primarily because Marxism has an explanatory power and long-term perspective that its rival economic theories can’t touch. This book was inspired by Badiou’s despair over Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory in the 2007 presidential elections, but shares American economists’ interest in Marxism as a method of critique. He argues that without Marxism the world would be stuck in an endless repetition of all the problems of capitalism. Badiou’s dense and irascible style takes some getting used to, but he never ceases to be provocative.

Sigfried Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Giedion was Walter Benjamin’s favorite architectural historian, and Giedion is extensively quoted in the Arcades Project. For example, Giedion taught Benjamin to see the world exhibitions as Gesamtkunstwerke, or total works of art. In Space, Time and Architecture Giedion traces the history of the organization of space, beginning with the Renaissance and continuing up through Modernism.

Noel Carroll, Art in Three Dimensions. Philosophers have always been more successful when studying literature than film. I’ve always been ambivalent about Carroll’s work. I didn’t care for Mystifying Movies: Fads and Fallacies in Contemporary Film Theory (1991), but later in the Nineties he proved to be a keen thinker about the cinema. Carroll has always been suspicious of aesthetic theories presupposing the autonomy of art, and in this book Carroll urges philosophers to look at how people interact with art under specific cultural circumstances.

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