Author: Devin Shaw

Elena del Río, The Grace of Destruction

Elena del Río, The Grace of Destruction: A Vital Ethology of Extreme Cinemas. London: Bloomsbury, 2016; 267 pages. ISBN 9781501303029. Reviewed by David H. Fleming, University of Nottingham Ningbo China. As the latest instalment in Bloomsbury’s “Thinking Cinema” series, The Grace of Destruction surfaces as a paradoxically timely and untimely book. Indeed, insofar as the ongoing “ethical-turn” in contemporary film-philosophy is concerned (see Nagib, 2011, 10; Choi and Frey, 2014, 1; Sinnerbrink, 2016, 5), and the wider “affective-turn” within millennial humanities, the book is very much of its moment. However, if we frame it alongside 2016’s populist nationalist movements (in the “West”), and the so-called “post-truth” events, it suddenly appears recast—in the Nietzschean sense—as an incredibly untimely work. For almost in anticipation of these events, Elena del Río celebrates “extreme” artworks that use their form and content to show how passive forces breed ressentiment and bad conscience, while active forces can help stimulate experimental creativity, and positively change the world. In such endeavours, del Río finds her untimely ally in Nietzsche, who (in)famously argued that the conjunction of art and philosophy is “useful for harming stupidity” and exposing all “forms of baseness of thought.” (183) Following in the footsteps materialist philosophers such as Brian Massumi, affect is here viewed as being “inherently political” (3), especially when used within various world cinemas that challenge viewers to “think with negative affects,...

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CFP: Heidegger: Dwelling, Thinking, and the Ethical Life

CALL FOR PAPERS The Centre for Advanced Research in European Philosophy, King’s University College at Western University, announces a call for papers for an upcoming international conference: Heidegger: Dwelling, Thinking, and the Ethical Life October 27–29, 2017 Plenary Speakers: Dr. Dennis Schmidt, Western Sydney University Dr. Julia Ireland, Whitman College Dr. Stephen Lofts, King’s University College at Western University Dr. Andrew Mitchell, Emory University A critique that often appears in relation to Heidegger’s philosophy is that it lacks any ethical import. This claim has been exacerbated with the recent publication of his Black Notebooks. This conference seeks to mine Heidegger’s philosophy for its ethical possibilities. To this end, we welcome abstracts for proposed papers that focus on the possibilities for ethics and ethical thinking that stem from Heidegger’s philosophy. Papers can focus on the themes of thinking, dwelling, and the ethical life. We also encourage papers that look at Heidegger’s analysis of texts within the philosophical tradition, for example, Schelling, Hegel, Aristotle, Plato, etc. Papers that place Heidegger into dialogue with other philosophers on the central theme of the conference are also welcome. Finally, papers that highlight applications and implications of Heidegger’s thought for ethics and ethical practice are encouraged. Abstracts of no more that 250 words should be sent to: Antonio Calcagno (*protected email*) and Stephen Lofts (*protected email*) by July 30, 2017. For further information or queries,...

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Daniel Breazeale, Thinking Through the Wissenschaftslehre

Daniel Breazeale, Thinking Through the Wissenschaftslehre: Themes from Fichte’s Early Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013; xxii + 460 pp.; ISBN: 978-0-19-923363-2 Reviewed by Jane Dryden, Mount Allison University J.G. Fichte is a frustrating but exciting philosopher to spend time with. His early work, during his period at Jena and immediately thereafter (1794–1801), speaks to many contemporary concerns. But in each text, Fichte treads his own distinct path, unassimilable to other positions, resisting obvious philosophical destinations in favour of whatever will further develop his conception of human freedom and refine his system of philosophy. He is wonderful to teach and share with students, and a rewarding interlocutor for research. For this, however, help is needed, and this is why we owe Dan Breazeale a great debt. In addition to his many translations of Fichte’s writings, Breazeale writes with clarity and care about puzzles in Fichte’s thought. This book started as a collection of Breazeale’s essays on Fichte, but—characteristic of Breazeale’s scholarly conscientiousness—each chapter has been further developed and updated, with some positions or points of emphasis reconsidered. For example, chapter 5, “The Spirit of the Early Wissenschaftslehre,” is substantially reworked from its early article form, drawing out the methodological comments about how one does philosophy to further emphasize their cautionary tone. Noting that “the responsibilities as well as the pleasures of interpretation are unavoidable” (96; compare to Breazeale 2000,...

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Rex Butler and David Denny (eds.), Lars von Trier’s Women

Rex Butler and David Denny (eds.), Lars von Trier’s Women. London: Bloomsbury 2017; 264 pages. ISBN: 9781501322457 Reviewed by William J. Simmons, CUNY The relationship between Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s filmography and women—but never feminism—has been the subject of intense debate, with a clear line being drawn between academics and laypeople. Lars von Trier’s Women, edited by Rex Butler and David Denny, contains 14 essays that span all of von Trier’s early and recent work, which is perhaps an admirable feat. It is the goal of these essays, at least according to the publisher’s summary, to “[reveal] hidden resources for a renewed ‘feminist’ politics and social practice.” The role of the scare quotes over “feminist,” I can only guess, is an allusion to a post-feminism, which is a meaningless stand-in for those who consider identity politics to be a tired methodology or activist praxis. For example, there are several instances wherein the authors in the volume explicitly dismiss feminist readings that are not in support of von Trier’s films. This is not simply an advertising technique; the editors claim that it is von Trier’s formal and thematic goal to “present something that breaks with it [the films’ formal construction], goes beyond it, can no longer be contained by it.” (12) In a tired analysis that has its roots in the sexist discourses begotten by masculinist and transphobic strands...

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D.N. Rodowick, Philosophy’s Artful Conversation

D.N. Rodowick, Philosophy’s Artful Conversation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015; 320 pages. ISBN: 9780674416673. Reviewed by Anders Bergstrom, Wilfrid Laurier University D.N. Rodowick’s Philosophy’s Artful Conversation (2015) brings to a close a three-volume project by the author that began with The Virtual Life of Film (2007) and continued in Elegy for Theory (2014). Over the course of these three volumes, Rodowick examines the role that theory plays in humanistic discourses today, using film studies to exemplify the challenges “theory” faces in contemporary academic discourses. The various forms of “theory” (semiotic, post-structural, psychoanalytic, etc.) that dominated film studies during the 1970s and 1980s have for some time been critiqued, from both inside and outside film studies, as lacking, particularly in terms of methodological commitments. This critique forms the core of the “post-” or “anti-theory” reaction, which in film studies was most forcefully put forward by David Bordwell and Noël Carroll. In the 1996 collection, Post-Theory, Bordwell and Carroll called for film studies to return to practices anchored in empirical inquiry and for an alliance with the discourses of the natural sciences, especially cognitivist sciences, and a commitment to historical poetics. Rodowick, in his own words, “takes the fate of theory in cinema studies as exemplary of the more general contestation of theory in the humanities.” (ix) The book is the result of a probing of the relationship between theory...

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When a man has filled his mouth so full of food that for this reason he cannot eat and it must end with his dying of hunger, does giving food to him consist in stuffing his mouth even more or, instead, in taking a little away so that he can eat?

— Kierkegaard, Postscript