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).
This past Friday Amy and I embarked on a journey to the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for Theory and Criticism, and despite the weather we arrived safely and had an excellent lunch with Peter Schwenger on campus where we talked about Vilem Flusser and Peter’s forthcoming At the Borders of Sleep. After lunch we sat in on Ben Woodard‘s seminar discussion group on Speculative Realism where we discussed Ian Hamilton Grant’s essay in The Speculative Turn. At 3:30 I presented “What is a Compendium?” which was met with a great response and several pointed and charitable questions and comments from the excellent MA and PHD students at the Centre. Afterwards I had an excellent discussion with Andrew Weiss about his writing on Derrida’s The Animal that Therefore I Am and a further discussion with a few others about the methodology of writing a sermon on the existentialism of the book of Job. Overall the discourse and conversation were incredible, including the feedback I received on the paper. The people were charitable and friendly to my theological convictions, and I felt able to speak freely in that space between the disciplines of theology, philosophy, and writing – a space where I intend to remain for the foreseeable future. There’s some great stuff going on at the
It appears that my review essay is available online, and Peter Gratton got to it before I did.
Speculations III is out now, and my review of Circus Philosophicus is available here. I’ll post more thoughts on it soon, perhaps a little postscript.
Also, the poster for the Fall Theory Sessions is available here.
Coming out in Symposium this Winter. Read in online here!
The first paper I attended was presented by Luke Davies of the University of Toronto (who I had heard give a paper on Wittgenstein at the Windsor Conference). I can safely say that I learned more about Kant in that 20 minutes than in the several years preceding it. The next paper was presented by Brian York and it was on some connections between Schopenhauer and the Vedantins. I hope Doug is reading this, for the sake of the Schopenhauer reference.
The third paper was given by none other than Alex Svoboda, who was kind enough to provide Amy and I with a ride from Syracuse to Oneonta. His paper was on certain panoptic aspects of popular culture, and he presented brilliantly. The medium/form of his presentation was perfectly in line with the message/content, it was uncanny. Instead of reading his paper like other presenters he exercised a great deal of freedom as a speaker as he improvised and strayed from the text. Foucault and Žižek were mentioned, making the paper a favorite to be sure.
In a later session I enjoyed another paper given by a Torontonian, Daniel Telech who, in the hurry to the train station left all of his iced tea in the car. After discovering this half an hour later Amy and I decided to take the unplanned gift for what it was. Thank you Daniel.
More papers followed, a very illuminating examination of Foucault, discourse, and 9/11, and a paper on Heidegger by Patricia Frame which blew me away. I’ve run out of time but if I have the chance I will post more on this in a few weeks! Cheers Max
“The seminar will first outline the shifts in culture, occurring in recent decades, from modernity to postmodernity as well as how these shifts are mirrored in technology. I will then present a view of technology specifically as a human tool, which is both used by individuals, and also forms and shapes individuals in social and spiritual ways. I will employ criticisms of culture and technology from the works of Jean Baudrillard, Bernard Stiegler, and Shane Hipps’ work on the media theorist Marshall McLuhan. I will be encouraging the participants of the seminar to think critically about how they use technology and how technology uses them, while walking a line between the separatist attitudes often expressed in traditional Mennonite culture and the total embrace of media often seen in secular culture. Instead of seeing our lives of faith as being separate from our use of technology and tools I will encourage those attending the seminar to be aware of the ways in which the media and technological proliferation influence the Christian life as it is lived.”
Come out and hear the talk! The website is here. I am scheduled for 4:00 to 5:15 on Tuesday the 5th and Thursday the 7th…
It looks like I’ll be speaking again at an undergraduate philosophy conference, this time in New York state. Amy and I will be heading down at the end of next week for a few days of presentations and a lot of reading time on the Greyhound. It will be nice to get away for a little while as the past little while has been school, moving, and exams. Some travel plans are still being confirmed (many thanks to Alex Svoboda), but the accommodations are booked and the bus tickets are paid for (mine by the generous people at the philosophy department at Waterloo).
>Feel free to take a look at the following mini-review for the Church and Postmodern Culture Blog, and some poetryI wrote for the Boar a few weeks ago.
>Also, if anyone has heard whether the UW Chevron is still running send me an email.
>And lastly: myself, my brother, and Doug Guilbeault will be reading Sartre’s Being and Nothingness together as a sort of reading group (more on that later).