Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution

Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution

by Rebecca Comay

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This book explores Hegel's response to the French Revolutionary Terror and its impact on Germany. Like many of his contemporaries, Hegel was struck by the seeming parallel between the political upheaval in France and the upheaval in German philosophy inaugurated by the Protestant Reformation and brought to a climax by German Idealism. Many thinkers reasoned that a political revolution would be unnecessary in Germany, because this intellectual "revolution" had preempted it. Having already been through its own cataclysm, Germany would be able to extract the energy of the Revolution and channel its radicalism into thought. Hegel comes close to making such an argument too. But he also offers a powerful analysis of how this kind of secondhand history gets generated in the first place, and shows what is stake. This is what makes him uniquely interesting among his contemporaries: he demonstrates how a fantasy can be simultaneously deconstructed and enjoyed.

Mourning Sickness provides a new reading of Hegel in the light of contemporary theories of historical trauma. It explores the ways in which major historical events are experienced vicariously, and the fantasies we use to make sense of them. Comay brings Hegel into relation with the most burning contemporary discussions around catastrophe, witness, memory, and the role of culture in shaping political experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804761277
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication date: 09/30/2010
Series: Cultural Memory in the Present
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Rebecca Comay is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, where she is also codirector of the Program in Literary Studies. She is the editor of Lost in the Archives (2001) and coeditor of Endings: Memory in Hegel and Heidegger (1999).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Abbreviations xii

Introduction: French Revolution, German Misère 1

1 Missed Revolutions: Translation, Transmission, Trauma 8

" impossibly speedy motion" 8

Translatio imperii 14

Copernican and Other Revolutions 17

"The Magic Wand of Analogy" 20

Noch nicht und doch schon... 21

Translation as Trauma 24

2 The Kantian Theater 26

Crimen inexpiabile 28

Shipwreck with Spectator 31

The Abyss of Form 35

Diabolical? 42

Moral Revolution 46

Another Scene 50

3 The Corpse of Faith 55

Revolution or Reform? 55

Dead Right 58

Erasures 60

Terror as Melancholia 64

Of Kings and Cabbages 67

Horror vacui 74

4 Revolution at a Distance, or, Moral Terror 81

Philosophical Thermidor 82

"...another land" 85

From Terror to Anxiety 87

Morality as Slave Ideology 91

Kant as Terrorist 93

First Step: Morality as Perversion 98

Second Step: Perversion as Aestheticism 101

Third Step: Aestheticism as Ideology 103

Vaporized Subjectivity 109

5 Terrors of the Tabula Rasa 118

Antinomies of Forgiveness 119

"Rushing Toward Reconciliation" 125

Wounds of Spirit 129

Politics of Forgiveness? 131

World Soul on Horseback 136

"The Self-Moving Life of the Dead" 139

Gray on Gray (Hegel, Beckett, Richter) 142

"As if it had learned nothing..." 145

"We, the masters..." 149

Notes 157

Index 193

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