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Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts) [Kindle Edition]

Gerhard Richter

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Book Description

Gerhard Richter's groundbreaking study argues that the concept of "afterness" is key to understanding the thought and aesthetics of modernity. He pursues such questions as what it means for something to "follow" something else and whether that which follows marks a clear break with what comes before. Or does that which follows tacitly perpetuate its predecessor as a consequence of its indebtedness to the terms and conditions of that from which it claims to have departed? Indeed, Richter asks, is not the very act of breaking with, and then following upon, a way of retroactively constructing and fortifying that from which the break that set the movement of following into motion had occurred?

Richter explores the concept and movement of afterness as a privileged yet uncanny category through close readings of Immanuel Kant, Franz Kafka, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht, Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jacques Derrida. Through his work, the vexed concepts of afterness, following, and coming after illuminate a constellation of modern preoccupations, including personal and cultural memory, translation, photography, hope, and the historical and conceptual specificity of what has been termed "after Auschwitz." Richter's various threads of analysis—which cross an expansive collection of modern writers and thinkers, diverse historical moments of articulation, and a range of media-richly develop Lyotard's incontrovertible statement that "after philosophy comes philosophy. But it has been altered by the 'after.'" As this intricate inquiry demonstrates, much hinges on our interpretation of the "after," for our most fundamental assumptions concerning modern aesthetic representation, conceptual discourse, community, subjectivity, and politics are at stake.

Editorial Reviews


a worthwhile read...a refreshing way to think 'post-modernity' without the brittleness of the 'post'...

(Jill Petersen Adams Continental Philosophy Review 1900-01-00)

[readers are] richly rewarded by a multifaceted survey of the discourse of modernity.

(Klaus Hofmann MLQ 1900-01-00)

Gerhard Richter's rigorously argued book about what he calls 'afterness'... is the lure to thought whose uncertain traces Richter follows through the twists and turns of an enormously suggestive archive, ranging from the work of Kant to Derrida, and from the intricacies of Hölderlin's poems to the mise en abyme of Stefan Moses's photographic portraits.... Richter's patient tarrying with Nachheit throws into sharp relief the anxious willfulness of those who triumphantly claim to situate themselves 'after theory,' 'after deconstruction,' or 'after the human.'

(MLN 1900-01-00)

Richter has coined the term 'afterness' to describe the temporal slipperiness of modern experience--he values philosophers and artists that linger with the ephemeral or marginal remainders left over by institutionalized thought and conceptual determination, and the experimental form of his book seeks to both describe and perform this lingering.... Richter values the potential for the aesthetic to imagine new collectivities and forms of shared experience and memory.

(Qui Parle 1900-01-00)

For Richter, coming after should not be misunderstood as merely derivative, belated, or secondary. Instead, he convincingly argues for the recognition of an 'essential' anachronism inherent in any thought that authentically attempts to understand time and history.... Richter convincingly connects lucid close readings of particular passages with larger issues of aesthetics, political theory, and philosophy.

(German Studies Review 1900-01-00)

[ Afterness] is a marvel of breadth of vision, precise detail, and depth of thought that philosophers will welcome.... We must continue to follow afterness now that Richter's Afterness has appeared, follow it in the sense of Derrida's suivre. To put it formally, after afterness comes nothing that comes-to-be, is to-come, or ever was. Neither the word nor the thing (as, again, Derrida would have said) called afterness can be abandoned or evaded. And that makes Gerhard Richter's Afterness a philosophical event. I conclude my welcoming of it by expressing the hope that Richter will continue with Afterness--for, after all, Hyperion signs his letters to Bellarmin with Nächstens mehr, "More to come, as soon as possible."

(Research in Phenomenology 1900-01-00)


Time plays a central role within philosophical and literary encounters with modernity. Once time is no longer thought of in terms of linear progression and is therefore free from the burdens of historicism, what endures as the central demand is thinking the 'after.' In a remarkably nuanced and original work, Gerhard Richter addresses the multifaceted nature of the 'after.' While canonical figures such as Walter Benjamin, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida, and Arendt form the figures around whom the argument is developed, what emerges is Richter's original contribution to an understanding of time within modernity. In working at the interface of philosophy and aesthetics—a site that modernity demands and rightly privileges—Richter develops a conception of time that stills the pathos of utopianism while holding the future open. The possibility of another beginning resides in the recognition that what occurs 'after' is already taking place.

(Andrew Benjamin, professor of critical theory and philosophical aesthetics, Monash University)

Product Details

  • File Size: 23422 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0231157703
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 25, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005Z2IKHS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,172 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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