English-speaking readers might be surprised to learn that Alain Badiou writes fiction and plays along with his philosophical works and that they are just as important to understanding his larger intellectual project. In Ahmed the Philosopher, Badiou's most entertaining and accessible play, translated into English here for the first time, readers are introduced to Badiou's philosophy through a theatrical tour de force that has met with much success in France. Ahmed the Philosopher presents its comic hero, the "treacherous servant" Ahmed, as a seductively trenchant philosopher even as it casts philosophy itself as a comic performance. The comedy unfolds as a series of lessons, with each "short play" or sketch illuminating a different Badiousian concept. Yet Ahmed does more than illustrate philosophical abstractions; he embodies and vivifies the theatrical and performative aspects of philosophy, mobilizing a comic energy that exposes the emptiness and pomp of the world. Through his example, the audience is moved to a living engagement with philosophy, discovering in it the power to break through the limits of everyday life.
Theoretically sophisticated: How often has this term been used to distinguish a work of contemporary criticism, and what, exactly, does it mean? In Strange Gourmets, Joseph Litvak reclaims sophistication from its negative connotations and turns the spotlight on those who, even as they demonize sophistication, surreptitiously and extensively use it.Though commonly thought of as a kind of worldliness at its best and an elitist snobbery at its worst, sophistication, Litvak reminds us, remains tied to its earlier, if forgotten, meaning of "perversion"--a perversion whose avatars are the homosexual and the intellectual. Proceeding with his investigations from a specifically gay academic perspective, Litvak presents thoroughly inventive readings of novels by Austen, Thackeray, and Proust, and of theoretical works by Adorno and Barthes, each text epitomizing sophistication in one of its more familiar modes. Among the issues he explores are the ways in which these texts teach sophistication, the embarrassment that sophistication causes the sophisticated, and how the class politics of sophistication are inseparable from its sexual politics. Helping gay, queer, feminist, and other provocative critics to make the most of their bad publicity, Litvak mindfully celebrates sophistication's economy of taste and pleasure.
In a bold rethinking of the Hollywood blacklist and McCarthyite America, Joseph Litvak reveals a political regime that did not end with the 1950s or even with the Cold War: a regime of compulsory sycophancy, in which the good citizen is an informer, ready to denounce anyone who will not play the part of the earnest, patriotic American. While many scholars have noted the anti-Semitism underlying the House Un-American Activities Committee's (HUAC's) anti-Communism, Litvak draws on the work of Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Alain Badiou, and Max Horkheimer to show how the committee conflated Jewishness with what he calls "comic cosmopolitanism," an intolerably seductive happiness, centered in Hollywood and New York, in show business and intellectual circles. He maintains that HUAC took the comic irreverence of the "uncooperative" witnesses as a crime against an American identity based on self-repudiation and the willingness to "name names. " Litvak proposes that sycophancy was (and continues to be) the price exacted for assimilation into mainstream American culture, not just for Jews, but also for homosexuals, immigrants, and other groups deemed threatening to American rectitude. Litvak traces the outlines of comic cosmopolitanism in a series of performances in film and theater and before HUAC, performances by Jewish artists and intellectuals such as Zero Mostel, Judy Holliday, and Abraham Polonsky. At the same time, through an uncompromising analysis of work by informers including Jerome Robbins, Elia Kazan, and Budd Schulberg, he explains the triumph of a stoolpigeon culture that still thrives in the America of the early twenty-first century.
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