This book is the product of a long, ongoing conversation with many people in widely scattered settings. It has been a complex undertaking, covering a range of fields that were, in some cases, unfamiliar to me, and its evolution was at times unclear and ungainly. I would like to thank a handful of individuals who have taken a particularly active role in its creation and without whose aid this volume would not now exist. Jim Creech generously contributed his insight and intelligence to this project since its very inception and he provided an intellectual compass throughout its evolution. Marie-Claire Vallois was a pillar of support at difficult moments and a joyous accomplice in better ones. Marie-Hèlène Huet’s scholarship was a source of inspiration, while her careful readings and encouragement proved conceptually and morally invaluable.
I would also like to thank those who have read and responded to various versions of this text, in particular Geoffrey Bennington, Suzanne Guerlac, and Maurice Samuels, as well as an anonymous reader for Fordham. Colleagues at Miami have offered sustained and layered commentary, especially Tim Melley, Elisabeth Hodges, and Claire Goldstein. Others have intervened more punctually, but no less meaningfully. Bruno Chaouat has engaged various points of the argument and offered it hospitality at Cerisy-la-Salle. Marina van Zuylen gave advice and imaginative orientation, especially on sections relating to Odilon Redon. Martine De Groote helped me navigate the resources of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France along with its sometimes esoteric culture and history.
This book and its author owe a deep debt of gratitude to a host of interlocutors at conferences, colloquia, and talks, notably in the French sections of Emory, UCLA, Indiana University, and Cornell, where colleagues and friends helped me tease through various aspects of the argument. Two colloquia at