‘Educated in what he refers to as “the liberating discourse of French Structuralism,” Hickey dismisses its American disciples as “misshapen offspring.” With his take-no-prisoners attitude, he writes in openly derisive terms about the watered-down, enfeebled American version of French thought: “Somehow, the delicate instrumentalities of continental thought had been transmuted by the American professoriate into a highfalutin, pseudo-progressive billy club with which to beat dissenters about the head and shoulders.”‘
This is a clear introduction to Badiou, one that is as much as one could hope for with the length and diversity of such a career. It usefully contextualizes Badiou’s previous (Marxist, Maoist) political orientation with regard to his philosophy as both thought and practice. That said, even with (or because of) this, I feel that when it comes to “mature” Badiou as is outlined here, I understand his concept of the event rather more than I do being as he conceives of it within his notorious set-theory ontology. Perhaps it is not a part of the motivating logic of this “Live Theory” series, but a programmatic engagement with some of the texts through which people encounter Badiou (Being and Event, The Logic of Worlds) might be of more help for those (such as myself) who would turn to such a book as this out of a sense of helplessness in being confronted by such monoliths. I turned to the essays (Infinite Thought, Theoretical Writings) when I trudged a hundred pages into Badiou after reading of him in Žižek‘s The Ticklesh Subject, only to be brought to an ego-crushing halt. Nevertheless, this book is an achievement on the route to writing such an ideal introductory text as this review is predicated on.
How close does the “history of ideas” approach come to data-mining as the study and criticism of literature? I was rereading Christopher Tilmouth’s Passion’s Triumph Over Reason, and I began thinking about this. I met the author a few years back, in his Cambridge room in a turret of Peterhouse, when I was planning on undertaking a PhD (on the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester) there. We discussed the various approaches that are common now, and while he is not necessarily a party to the more theory-laden schools of thought, he certainly was familiar with their content and understood their attraction to many. I was there to talk to him about the possibility of taking a more formal approach to literature (which is in keeping with my techno-functionalist interests in philosophy!), one which did not make the text merely a conduit to discuss a particular theory of discourse, one which, incidentally might be anachronistic. At the same time, however, I felt that there was something about the historical scholarship approach to poetry that didn’t resonate for me. Continue reading →