Conference: Wading Deeper – Anabaptist-Mennonite Identities Engage Postmodernity

If any readers are in Winnipeg this weekend I will be giving a talk at the 6th Biennial Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre Graduate Student Conference at the Canadian Mennonite University on Saturday. The talk is titled “A Proposal for Nonviolent Metaphysics: Examining Ontological Violence” and it extends the Mennonite Metaphysics project that I’ve been working on. The link for the conference is here: https://uwaterloo.ca/toronto-mennonite-theological-centre/events/tmtc-graduate-student-conference-0

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Marion Review

My longer review of Marion’s book Givenness & Hermeneutics was just published online with Symposium (the journal is now only publishing book reviews online, and not in print). Take a look here.

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Review of Peter Blum’s “For a Church to Come”

“Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist, ” a review of For a Church to Come by Peter Blum, Canadian Mennonite, Vol. 17, No. 22 (2013): 32.

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For a Church to Come, the newest addition to the Polyglossia series published by Herald Press, is a collection of essays full of gems for those who long to see authentic conversation occur between Anabaptism and postmodernity. Prefaced by theologian John D. Caputo, the book contains seven essays of diverse themes united by the confrontation between postmodern philosophy and Anabaptist Mennonite theology. While the essays themselves may not be accessible to readers without some philosophical and theological education, the introduction, interludes, and appendix may find a wider audience. Blum introduces the book with “Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist” and provides an interlude entitled “Boxes”, a poem entitled “Nine-Tenths of the Law”, and a very thought provoking appendix reflecting on John Howard Yoder. These meditations question common assumptions about absolute truth (in the introduction), offer meaningful reflections on the place of theory in theology (in an interlude), and provide very insightful thoughts on the relationship between the scholarly work and biography of John Howard Yoder.

Blum explains and problematizes the ambivalent and contradictory meaning(s) of the term “postmodern” and shows how the term names a suspicion of finality and closure. This suspicion of ultimate foundations means that, for those with postmodern convictions, nothing is beyond question. The experiments within For a Church to Come follow an attitude in which questions are more important than answers, and occasional interventions are perhaps more authentic than long systematic tomes. In his interlude entitled “Boxes” Blum illustrates the ways in which we theorize about reality (whether theologically or philosophically) by finding categories for our experiences. This is a theme that runs through the essays in the book, along with the very nonviolent and pacifist caution to avoid letting our categories be too totalizing.

The publication of these essays, edited and collected in one place, will be especially helpful for students in the humanities with an interest in both postmodern philosophy (Derrida, Heidegger, Levinas) and Anabaptist Mennonite Theology. In this way Blum joins other Mennonite scholars who are engaging in dialogue with postmodern thinkers, such as Chris Huebner (A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, and Identity) and Jamie Pitts (Principalities and Powers: Revising John Howard Yoder’s Sociological Theology). One can only hope that scholarly and popular work of this calibre continues to be published on the relationship between our Mennonite identity and our postmodern climate.

“What is a Compendium?” now Published

Hi All,

An edited version of my UWO Theory Session, “What is a Compendium? Parataxis, Hypotaxis, and the Question of the Book“, has just been published by the wonderful folks at Continent. Here is their abstract for the piece:

Through his analyses of figures such as parataxis, hypotaxis, compilation, and selection — and a reading of Derrida on Jabès, specifically — Maxwell Kennel plots a reminder — for all of those concerned with fragmentary or hierarchical writing — of the importance of the figure of the Compendium and the figure of the Book as indispensible metonymies for grand theories of anything..

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Update

benjamin

The next month or so should see the following pieces of writing available for download 🙂

Dialectics Unbound: On the Possibility of Total Writing. Dead Letter Office Series (Brooklyn, New York: Punctum Books, Spring 2013)

• “What is a Compendium? Parataxis, Hypotaxis, and the Question of the Book” Continent 3.1 (Spring 2013)

(!Link Added) • “The Spirit of Contradiction” An Encounter with Introduction to Antiphilosophy by Boris Groys, PhaenEx: Journal of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture, Volume 8, No. 1 (2013)

The World is a Book (Talk)

See the outline here!

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WHEN: Thursday, March 28 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Critical Media Lab, 158 King St. W., Kitchener

Abstract

I plan to share some material from a few forthcoming pieces of writing. The first is an article on the ‘compendium’ as a figure for writing and discourse, the second is a book on dialectics (Punctum Books, Spring 2013), and the third is a manuscript on a ‘binary metaphysics’. In addition to a few excerpts and an overview of my project, I’ll also share some thoughts on open access publishing and the book as a medium in transition from materiality to virtuality.

Dialectics Unbound (Book Page)

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Dialectics Unbound: On the Possibility of Total Writing

by Maxwell Kennel

FORTHCOMING: Spring 2013

Dialectics Unbound: On the Possibility of Total Writing re-imagines figures of ontological totality, in and out of writing, first by exploring some lineages of the dialectic, and second by engaging thinkers such as Theodor Adorno and his assertion of nonidentity, Julia Kristeva and her positing of a fourth term of the dialectic, and Fredric Jameson’s treatment of the dialectic as an open totality. By articulating a concept of totalization-without-totality, Dialectics Unbound seeks to free the concept of the dialectic from the violence of closure, and then to take this unbound dialectics to the work of writing through a brief examination of parataxis and aphoristics as approaches to writing, both possible and impossible.

Maxwell Kennel is a student of philosophy, rhetoric, and writing based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. His research is focused on the ontology of identity and totality and the intersection of philosophy and theology. He works in the Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada, and is affiliated with Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo.

Cover Image: details from Sarah Lewis, Time Machine (2008).