Body and Story: The Ethics and Practice of Theoretical by Richard Terdiman

By Richard Terdiman

In Body and Story, Richard Terdiman explores the strain among what might sound to be essentially other ways of realizing the realm: as actual fact and as illustration in language. In demonstrating the advanced courting among those modes of being, he additionally offers a brand new daring method of the matter of conflicts among irreconcilable yet both compelling theoretical principles.

Enlightenment rationalism is typically understood as protecting that phrases can meaningfully confer with and snatch issues within the fabric global, whereas Postmodernism famously argues that not anything exists open air of language. Terdiman demanding situations this fresh contrast, discovering the early seeds of Postmodern doubt within the Enlightenment, and demonstrating the obdurate resistance of fabric reality―particularly that of the body―to language even this day. development on readings of works through 18th-century encyclopedist Denis Diderot and modern philosopher-icon Jacques Derrida, Terdiman argues that regardless of their actual and profound competition, a continuing negotiation or mutual interrogation has consistently been occurring among those world-views, whilst the stability every now and then shifts to at least one facet or the opposite. In interpreting those shifts he proposes a brand new version for realizing how doubtless unabridgeable theories legitimately coexist in our highbrow notion of the realm, and he indicates a brand new ethics for handling this coexistence.

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It materializes in the way that in its narrative and pragmatic 17. Emerson, ‘‘Ode, Inscribed to W. H. Channing,’’ 50–51. 18. See ‘‘Bas,’’ DFPV 6:78. Diderot makes a parallel point about the control by machines in another of his articles, ‘‘Art,’’ DFPV 5:505. Jacques Proust has provided a remarkable study of the rhetoric and bearing of ‘‘Bas’’ and its relation to Diderot’s more explicitly literary works in ‘‘De l’Encyclopédie au Neveu de Rameau,’’ 273–340. 19. See Marx, Capital, 1:548; trans. adapted.

But what happens when real people are treated like characters in a fiction? Such a mutation locates the textual and social perplexity produced in and uncovered by La religieuse. That the world of texts and the world of reality are separable seems clear enough. But texts can make them intersect. Then something like an ontological category mistake arises—and, because of it, an unsettling ethical and practical conundrum. The conspirators lived concretely and analyzed carefully the disjunctions such a structure projects.

But his attention to the organization and the functioning of storytelling in his texts does not simply anticipate, still less duplicate, the blithely transhistorical and depoliticizing modernist presumption that all writing is really just writing about writing itself. On the contrary, Diderot’s preoccupation with the question of narrative had conjunctural determinations. Enlightenment culture was preoccupied with narrative practices and possibilities because of a complex of unmanaged uncertainties within the culture itself, and particularly in its mode of producing, reproducing, and potentially transforming its structures and its meanings.

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