New Books in the Arts & Sciences:
Celebrating Recent Work by Stathis Gourgouris
The Perils of the One
By: Stathis Gourgouris
From the earliest times, societies have been seduced by the temptation of unitary thinking. Recognizing the vulnerability of existence, people and cultures privilege regimes that confer authority on a single entity, a sovereign ruler, a transcendental deity, or an Event, which they embrace with unquestioned devotion. Such obsessions precipitate contempt for the worldliness of real bodies in real time and refusal of responsibility and agency.
In The Perils of the One, Stathis Gourgouris offers a philosophical anthropology that confronts the legacy of “monarchical thinking”: the desire to subjugate oneself to unitary principles and structures, whether political, moral, theological, or secular. In wide-ranging essays that are at once poetic and polemical, intellectual and passionate, Gourgouris reads across politics and theology, literary and art criticism, psychoanalysis and feminism in a critique of both political theology and the metaphysics of secularism. He engages with a range of figures from the Apostle Paul and Trinitarian theologians, to La Boétie, Schmitt, and Freud, to contemporary thinkers such as Clastres, Said, Castoriadis, Žižek, Butler, and Irigaray. At once a broad perspective on human history and a detailed examination of our present moment, The Perils of the One offers glimpses of what a counterpolitics of autonomy would look like from anarchic subjectivities that refuse external ideals, resist the allure of command and obedience, and embrace otherness.
About the Author:
Stathis Gourgouris, Professor of Classics and of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, writes and teaches on a range of subjects that weave together questions on the poetics and politics of modernity and democracy. He is the author of Dream Nation: Enlightenment, Colonization, and the Institution of Modern Greece (Stanford, 1996); Does Literature Think? Literature as Theory for an Antimythical Era (Stanford, 2003); Lessons in Secular Criticism (Fordham 2013); Ενδεχομένως αταξίες [Contingent Disorders] (Athens: Nisos, 2017); The Perils of the One (Columbia, 2019); and editor of Freud and Fundamentalism (Fordham, 2010) and Thinking With Balibar (Fordham, 2020). In addition, he has published numerous articles on Ancient Greek philosophy, political theory, modern poetics, film, contemporary music, and psychoanalysis. He is currently completing work on two other book projects: Nothing Sacredand Synaesthetics of the Polity.
He writes regularly in internet media (such as Open Democracy, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera), as well as major Greek newspapers and journals on contemporary political and literary issues. He is also an internationally awarded poet, with four volumes of poetry published in Greek. His work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese.
About the Speakers:
Hent de Vries is Paulette Goddard Professor of the Humanities at NYU. He is Professor of German, Religious Studies, Comparative Literature, and Affiliated Professor of Philosophy. He received his BA/MA in Judaica and Hellenistic Thought (Theology), Public Finance and Political Economy (Law), at Leiden University, and obtained his PhD there in Philosophy of Religion, with a study on Theodor W. Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas, Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida, entitled Theologie im pianissimo. Zwischen Rationalität und Dekonstruktion.
Before joining NYU, de Vries directed The Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University, holding the Russ Family Chair in the Humanities with a joint appointment in Philosophy. He also taught in the Philosophy departments of Loyola University in Chicago and the University of Amsterdam, where he long held the Chair of Metaphysics and its History and co-founded and directed the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. He received visiting positions and fellowships at Harvard, Chicago, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, the Paris Collège International de Philosophie, the Université Saint Louis in Brussels, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Université de Paris, Panthéon-Sorbonne. Hent de Vries is currently serving his second term as Director of the summer School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University (SCT), Ithaca. In 2018, he was the Titulaire of the Chaire de Métaphysique Étienne Gilson at the Institut Catholique, Paris. He is the Editor of the book series "Cultural Memory in the Present," published by Stanford University Press.
Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, works mainly in the areas of nineteenth and twentieth century fiction, literary and cultural theory, and postcolonial studies. He is the author of Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence (Duke, 2012), Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State (Princeton, 2007), Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (NYU, 1999), Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (Verso, 1993) and The Servant's Hand: English Fiction from Below (Columbia, 1986; Duke pb 1993). He has edited Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics (Minnesota, 1990) and The Phantom Public Sphere (Minnesota, 1993) and he has co-edited (with Pheng Cheah) Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (Minnesota, 1998) and (with David Palumbo-Liu and Nirvana Tanoukhi) Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture (Duke, 2011). He was co-editor of the journal Social Text from 1991 to 2000. Cosmopolitanisms, co-edited with Paulo Horta, was published by NYU Press in July 2017. The Beneficiary, a sequel to Perpetual War, was published by Duke UP in December 2017. In 2013 he directed a documentary film entitled Some of My Best Friends Are Zionists. He is now completing a documentary on the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand and working on a book about literary representations of atrocity.
Lydia H. Liu is the Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University; Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Her research centers on modern China, cross-cultural exchange, and global transformation in modern history, with a focus on the movement of words, theories, and artifacts across national boundaries and on the evolution of writing, textuality, and media technology. Professor Liu teaches courses on modern Chinese literature and culture in this department and offers graduate courses on comparative literature, critical translation theory, and new media in the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.
Her representative publications include The Freudian Robot: Digital Media and the Future of the Unconscious (2010), The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making (2004), and Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity (1995). Her edited volumes include Tokens of Exchange: The Problem of Translation in Global Circulations (1999) and The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory (2013), a collaborative translation with Dorothy Ko and Rebecca Karl, as well as the first annotated edition of the early 20th century anarchist journals in Chinese Natural Justice and Equity with Wan Shiguo (2016). As bilingual writer, Liu is the author of The Nesbit Code, a work of fiction in Chinese that received the Hong Kong Book Prize in 2014.
Etienne Balibar, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, teaches at Columbia every Fall semester. He is Professor Emeritus of moral and political philosophy at Université de Paris X – Nanterre and Professor Emeritus of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He also holds a part-time Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London. He has published widely in the areas of epistemology, Marxist philosophy, and moral and political philosophy in general. His works include Lire le Capital (with Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, Jacques Rancière, Roger Establet) (1965); The Philosophy of Marx (1995); Spinoza and politics (1998); Politics and the Other Scene (2002); We, the People of Europe? (2003) ; Equaliberty (2014); Violence and Civility. On the Limits of Political Philosophy (2015); Citizen Subject. Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology (2017); Secularism and Cosmopolitanism (2018).