Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art

Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art

Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art

Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art

Synopsis

A leading philosopher and theologian, Jean-Louis Chr tien uses poetry and painting to explore a theme that runs through all of his work: how human life is shaped by the experience of call and response. For Chr tien, we live by responding to the call of experience with words, gestures, expressions, and silence. In luminous meditations on Rembrandt, Delacroix, Manet, Verlaine, Keats, and other artists, Chr tien shows how "talking hands of painters" and the "secretly lucid" voices of poets confront the finitude of the human body. Hand to Hand is a deeply cultured renewal of art in all its provocative, transforming, spiritual presence.

Excerpt

Alexandre Kojève's seminar on Hegel's Phänomenologie des Geistes, held from 1933-39 at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris, caught the imagination of a great many French thinkers and writers in their formative years, and as a result left an indelible mark on twentieth-century French philosophical, theoretical, and literary writing. Kojève made Hegel's so-called Master-Slave dialectic the engine of a revamped, existential Marxist vision of history, according to which all violence is perpetually recuperated into progress toward the End of History. As Michael S. Roth has put it, according to this Hegelian vision [history is not merely a slaughterbench, it is the birth of the Truth through the labor of the negative.] Most postwar French thinkers that have had a significant readership in the United States—Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Bataille, Blanchot, Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida—struggled in various ways for large portions of their careers with the apparently allencompassing Hegelian system expounded by Kojève as well as the other major French Hegelians of the 1940s and 1950s, Jean Hyppolite and Eric Weil. These struggles have taken many forms; arguably their most significant effect lies in the widespread belief that tragically violent experience—sometimes meaningful, but more frequently gratuitous and aimless, and thus supposedly incapable of being recuperated into an alienating project—characterizes the living of an authentic human life.

Like a number of his Christian counterparts, Jean-Louis Chrétien offers an alternative to this persistent valorization . . .

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