Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction

Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction

Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction

Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction

Synopsis

Giorgio Agamben is a philosopher well known for his brilliance and erudition, as well as for the difficulty and diversity of his seventeen books. The interest which his Homo Sacer sparked in America is likely to continue to grow for a great many years to come. Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction presents the complexity and continuity of Agamben's philosophy- and does so for two separate and distinct audiences. It attempts to provide readers possessing little or no familiarity with Agamben's writings with points of entry for exploring them. For those already well acquainted with Agamben's thought, it offers a critical analysis of the achievements that have marked it.

Excerpt

In the fall of 1974 Giorgio Agamben traveled to London for a year of study in the library of the Warburg Institute. Dedicated to Kulturwissenschaft. the scholarly investigation of the arts and sciences, the library's most striking feature was its principle of organization. Works were not classified by subject, author, title, or even date of acquisition, but instead by what the library's founder, Aby Warburg, called “the law of the good neighbor.” Although grouped under such general rubrics as anthropology and art history, both the various sections and the books within them were arranged according to their ability to engage with the books on either side of them. A line of speculation opened in one volume was attested to or attacked, continued or contradicted, refined or refuted in its neighbor. Each book was to answer or ask a question of the one next to it.

Visitors to Warburg's library were thus confronted by an enigma— so intensely that upon first entering it Ernst Cassirer declared that one needed either “to flee from it” or “to remain there a prisoner for years” (he did both). Agamben's readers, if on a far smaller scale, are confronted by a similar problem. Just as readers like Cassirer—and later Agamben himself—found themselves inquiring into the hidden connections between the works in Warburg's library, so too do readers of Agamben's books. From The Man Without Content.(1970) to Signatura rerum.(2008), Agamben's eighteen works have proved, in Warburg's sense of the term, good neighbors to one another, both in that they ask and answer questions of one another, and in that these questions are not immediately apparent. Although Agamben has often remarked that what goes unsaid in one of his works provides the point of departure for what is said in another, he has not traced these lines nor, more generally, stressed what links his diverse writings. This at once personal and methodological choice leaves to his readers the task of connecting his interests and investigations, and . . .

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