Friedrich Balke: All in Good Time? Fiction and the Possibility of Historic Events
All in Good Time? Fiction and the Possibility of Historic Events
(S. 89 – 100)

Fiction and the Possibility of Historic Events

Friedrich Balke

All in Good Time? Fiction and the Possibility of Historic Events

PDF, 12 Seiten

Friedrich Balke discusses the fiction and the possibility of historic events, contrasting the envelopment of all exceptions in the impossibility of historical deviance as claimed in the exemplary mode of the Annales-school with the role of the heretic that can only be defended against such appeals to homogeneous and hegemonic periodization.The fiction is here unambiguously located in the archive, and the many small fictions that archives employ to close their gaps and render their descriptions continuous are exposed. Opposition to these practices is found in the insistence on the event as evidenced in the series of repetitions in Borges’ Menard’s Quijote, which reiterates the seemingly exact same sentence as written by Cervantes and shows cases how utterly unalike the repetition becomes, and how it reimagines its original in a newly heretical interpretation that transgresses the apparent consensus of either period.

I. Good time

Should historiography beat history – social, cultural, or even media histories – into shapes that fit a principle determining the possibility or impossibility of objects, mentalities and events? To deal with this question, I refer to Jacques Rancière’s considerations presented in his 1997 lecture titled “The Trouble with Ana.”1 Rancière first developed the same argument in his 1992 book The Names of History.2 To me, this is still one of his most interesting books, productive as it is for the histories of cultures and sciences, even though it does not yet deal with aesthetic regimes or disagreement (mésentente). My own thoughts on the matter touch upon the question of the political in so far as they concern the relation between names or words and the places or “spaces” in which they appear. For as Rancière pointed out later in Disagreement, “Political activity is whatever shifts a body from the place assigned to it or changes a place’s destination. It makes visible what had no business being seen, and makes heard as discourse what was once only heard as noise.”3 Even before politics engages intentions, interests, needs, goals, and aims, it displaces or “undoes the perceptible divisions.”4

Historians and sociologists disagree, of course. Whatever happens, to them, has its own space and its own time: All in good time, as they say. Both the chronical and the epochal perception of time depend upon this normative principle, a kind of “police” in Rancière’s terms, of the “good time”: That everything happens in its own time (and in its own place) demonstrates the good morality of that time, the good morality of history as a whole. In the 20th century, a new history or nouvelle histoire emerges in France to connect this orderly time to a specific conception of space: A space that functions as the sum of all those forces that retard, relativize, and functionalize the event, not only pluralizing the times of history, but relegating to a background the hectic rhythms at its surface, favoring instead the so-called longue durée with its series and periods that reach beyond generations and epochs. The geographicalization of history and the “territorialization of meaning”5 are supposed to guarantee that any word that is spoken and defiantly hurled against an existing power cannot reveal anything beyond the specific worldview or “social interest” of those who utter it.

Rancière renews the question of heresy in a sense that is at once scholarly and political. His question is the very question of the political: Whether there is an alternative to the practice of the inquisitor, who professionally persecutes heresy, and that of the historian, who makes heresy disappear by means that are no less strict, albeit less cruel. The following passage from the Names of History demonstrates the perspective from which the question of a (political) resistance as an epistemological category may be raised:

The inquisitor removes heresy by exterminating it – he marks it, locks it up, he kills it. The historian, on the contrary, surpresses it by giving it roots. He removes it, as it were retrospectively, from the inquisitorial condemnation by giving it the color of the earth and the stones, by rendering it indiscernible from its place. In this way the fundamental relation between the history of mentalities and heresy becomes evident. The historian of mentalities doesn’t encounter heresy as a particular section of his territory. He encounters it as the identity of the condition of possibility and the condition of impossibility of such a territory.6

II. Suspicions of Fictionality

Lucien Febvre, one of the founders of the Annales-school, called anachronism “the worst of all sins”7 – in the preface to a book treating the Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century through the case of Rabelais. The subtitle, by which Febvre anticipates his solution to that problem, speaks of The Religion of Rabelais, a phrase by which he opposes all those who put Rabelais to “trial for atheism and anti-Christian sentiment,”8 and who face him as judges, but not as historians. As opposed to the court of law that identifies offenders and assigns punishments, Febvre sees the task of historians as determining the very historic possibility of an action or fact. In this case: whether it could even historically be the case that Rabelais was an unbeliever. Febvre wants to replace the juridical question: Is it true with the question: Was it possible,9 or at least prioritize the latter before the former. “Let us take up the record again and look at it carefully.”10 For even if the files contain testimonies of what today would indubitably count as unbelief, everything hinges upon withholding judgement while we question the – transcendental – conditions of the possibility of unbelief in Rabelais’ time.

For Rabelais’ time, Febvre is confident that the people of the 16th century – “as opposed to our time, in which one might make a choice for or against Christianity” – had “no choice”:

Whether one wanted to or not, whether one clearly understood or not, one found oneself immersed from birth in a bath of Christianity from which one did not emerge even at death […]. From birth to death stretched a long chain of ceremonies, traditions, customs, and observances, all of them Christian or Christianized, and they bound a man inspite of himself, held him captive even if he claimed to be free. And first and foremost they pressed him on his private life.11

The rhetoric of Febvre’s text is conspicuous. Historical present tense and paratactical phrases that describe everyday actions as the eternal return of the same are dominant:

A child was born, and it is living. It was carried without delay to the church and baptized while bells rang which themselves had been solemnly baptized by the bishop, anointed with holy oil, and sentenced with frankincense and myrrh, and were not rung on secular occasions.12

Birth and death. Between these two extremes everything a man did in the normal course of life was marked with the stamp of religion. A man ate, and religion surrounded his food with rules, rituals, and prohibitions.13

Religion, in short, controls the life, the thoughts and the feelings of men from the large to the small. It is, as one might say with Marcel Mauss, a fait social total, a total social fact. “What about public life?” Febvre asks, only to immediately answer: “Is it necessary to remind ourselves how saturated with Christianity the state still was – in nature, spirit and structure?”14 What was true of church bells was also true of the king “heading France”: both were “anointed with holy oil.”15 To sum up Febvre’s argument throughout the 500 pages of his book, he “orchestrates the time of Rabelais as a time that took from him the possibility of unbelief.”16 Rabelais was no unbeliever, because he could not have been an unbeliever – no matter whether the statements offered by archives and files, in other words, by everything that is written and documented, fulfil the theological and juridical criteria for heresy. Lucien Febvre’s colleague historian Marc Bloch summarizes the analytics of historiographical impossibility in one sentence: “Men bear greater resemblance to their time than to their parents.” Thus, to be an unbeliever in Rabelais’ time can only mean “not to belong to one’s own time, that is, not to exist.”17

Now the 16th century with its confessional schisms and wars for truth is far from an era of (universally shared) belief. The Annales-historian accounts for this by treating the (public) manifestation of unbelief and heterodoxy as a privilege of scholars: Only those who treat clerical dogma by means of their professional intellectual skills, by using and misusing theological concepts, by affirming existing or creating new statements, may violate that dogma with intent. Only scholars know what they do and only they do (new or surprising) things with words. By using words, or by saying something, we do something, as Austin and speech act theory have taught us; but from Austin’s judicial point of view, doing things with words also implies the possibility of what he calls an “unhappy functioning of a performative.”18 Speaking also implies the possibility to “sin against”19 the rules that determine our performative utterances. Yet, the great majority of the people in 16th century Europe, as Febvre sees it, is unable to sin against the rules that determine their religious speech and thought. They are condemned to live in the truth of belief without knowing that truth, that is, without ever unfolding their belief in terms of truth or falsehood. From Febvre’s point of view one might argue that the common people, illiterate as they are, exist in a certain sense outside the space of literature, outside a discourse bound to books and letters, to littera. Thus the people exist outside of fiction. Michel de Certeau has pointed out that occidental historiography is “at war with fiction,”20 which does not mean that it aspires to say the truth, but that it derives its own raison d’être from its continuous and never-ending correction of errors, which it takes to be the errors of fables: “From this perspective, fiction is that part of a culture which historiography institutes as error, in order to demarcate its own realm.”21

For the historians of the Annales-school, who take fictitious histories to court with a special fervor, and with mainly quantitative statistical methods, the people appear only in their function as a representation of the factual, taken as a specific notion that limits possible events. The “common people” can never be wrong (will never even want to be wrong) with regards to the historical truth that they embody. Regarding the rhetorical structure of Febvre’s depiction of the people’s belief or the impossibility of their unbelief, we find that his sentences are short, and that they bear only, if any, the most minimal temporal markers, forcing Rabelais’ time onto the reader as an absolute present tense, “which to escape is impossible, unless one does not belong to one’s own time, that is to say, unless one does not exist.”22 Febvre, I would argue, submits historiographical discourse to the registry. The registry is a media technique that forecloses the option that anything might exist that is not inscribed in it. Registries transform what is said into what is given. The transformation of history into a scientific discipline promoted by the Annales-school consists in a rigorous (and yet impossible) deletion of all literary operations, and the conversion of historical accounts into such a registry. A registry: narrative no more, literature’s end.

The Spanish registries of passengers, which Bernhard Siegert analyzes in Papiere und Passagiere (Papers and Passengers),23 are of great significance for the problem of historiographical anachronism, because it is here, at the very heart of the 16th century and its allegedly characteristic impossibility of unbelief, and at the very heart of the registry and its transformation of everything told to the state authorities into indubitable data, that the “plague” of fiction and a generalized “suspicion of fictionality” breaks out. Who will guarantee that the data conserved in these registries, forcibly collected from subjects willing to leave their country, “correspond to anything in the real”?24 The Annales and Lucien Febvre cannot help but submit their writing to the registry’s (fictitious) truth effect, situating the mode of historiographical discourse strictly outside the order of the literary – understood as a technique of assigning events to subjects and not reducing them to social or anthropological functions –, while remaining unable to exclude all suspicion that the historiographical registry is – if not the place of systematic lies and deceits – at least the place of the unreliability of its sources.

III. Fiction in the Archive

Nowadays, few people will doubt that history operates in the medium of fictions, even before it is written and organized in narratives by professional historians. The decisive finding here is not that even Clio, remembering and contemplating the past, is a poet’s muse, but that the material in the documents as used by historians, as found in archives, is often already organised und structured in a fictitious way. Natalie Zemon Davis, to give an example, has examined the practice of French appeals for juridical pardons.25 She traces the ways by which convicted felons escaped the gallow. Those convicted felons had to retell the story that led to their deed, from their subjective point of view and with all rhetorical means available. Their attempt was to reach the king with so-called lettres de rémission, circumventing the courts that had long condemned the perpetrators. The telling original American title of Zemon Davis’ treatise is Fiction in the Archives. What interests me here is the status and the effects of this archival fiction. The fiction embedding the specific literary strategy of the lettres de rémission does not, as one might assume, refer to the miracle of royal pardon, but rather to the discursive process itself by which the subjective truth of the petitioner – against all determinations in court – acquired the strength to initiate a paradoxical alliance with the royal source of all state authority, who pardons the convicted criminal, and by doing so, suspends a legitimate judgement of the monarchic bureaucracy.26

Returning to the case of emigrants for the Spanish colonies overseas, we find again a model that served to extend the reach of state power into the everyday life of ordinary people. This was achieved by the royal bureaucracy’s request for those who were ready for emigration to first tell their story to the questioning authorities, to explain their reasons for leaving the country, and to produce a witness that would testify to all the information they provided about their origin, their family background, and most of all their Catholic beliefs. Only on the basis of transforming oneself into an object of royal knowledge would an individual of 16th century Spain be granted legitimate status as a subject to the royal state power, which was in turn a precondition for the licence to cross the Atlantic. For it was only things and humans previously registered that were allowed to leave the old world, having been transformed into legitimate objects of a state-sanctioned transfer between continents.27 Subjects are matters of state, which also means by reverse that people are forced to identify and subjectify themselves, as long as states and a state-related literature exist. Although the state’s institutions receive their knowledge from subjective sources, they are eager to delete all traces of narration and literature, all indications of the instances that are involved in administering the process of the state’s inquiry. Once all linguistic traces of such instances have been erased, the written can appear as the truth itself.

IV. Original repetition: Don Quijote

One of Jorge Luis Borges’ stories – found in his Ficciones first published in 1941 – treats the problems of the historiographical assignment of each word to its place, its topos, in a fundamental manner. The territorialization of sense “removes the possibility that any spoken word would ever be vain.”28 It is no coincidence that the founders of the nouvelle histoire are concerned so deeply with the issue of religious dissidence, as we have seen. For it is heresy that precisely demarcates the borderline case of a discourse, or a mere utterance; that disturbs the coherence of word and place, or to put it more accurately: of word, place, and time. It might be defined as an “excess of speech,”29 or as a fiction. Heresy, Rancière remarks in The Names of History, is “a piece of metal or language that can’t be ajoined to any other, a motherless child, a voice separated from the body, a body separated from the place.”30 It is precisely this curious mother-child-relation that reappears in a central sentence in Borges’ tale of “Pierre Menard, the author of Quijote,” written in 1939. Its topic is a case of excessive anachronism, drawing the most extreme consequences from that worst of all sins, against which the nouvelle histoire mobilizes all its scholarly pathos. Once more: According to this view, nothing may exist unless its time allows for its possibility. Borges’ tale opposes that view throughout, and even in its title, it asks for a historical impossibility: Can somebody be the author of a text if he or she is evidently not its creator? While this is categorically excluded for literary texts, bound as they have been since the mid-18th century to a specific singularity called ingeniousness and to the institution of authorship, it is a different matter for discourses that may continue to exist without an author function, although they do receive social appreciation and offer themselves up for unlimited repetition (think of rumors, the Bible, cooking recipes, or instruction manuals).

At first, Borges’ title seems to be no more than a joke or a simple lie, for the (fictitious) Pierre Menard is definitely not the author of Don Quijote; as we have all learned in school, or know from books of literary history, a man from 17th century Spain by the name of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is. Pierre Menard, a fictitious novelist from the 20th century, cannot by any means have authored a book from 1605 to 1615, unless he received an, say, intra-literary authorization as a quasi-author from Cervantes. But the name of somebody called Pierre Menard is not mentioned once throughout the novel. And yet Borges, referring to nothing but the “scant authority” of his narrator, makes just that claim, the claim that Menard does, in a certain way, re-author the text of Don Quijote. Menard’s ambition is not to write one of those “parasitic books that set Christ on a boulevard, Hamlet on La Cannebière or Don Quijote on Wall Street”: The narrator condemns these popular versions of a modernized or modernizing repetition:

Like every man of taste, Menard abominated those pointless travesties, which, Menard would say, were good for nothing but occasioning a plebeian delight in anachronism or (worse yet) captivating us with the elementary notion that all times and places are the same or are different.31

Menard’s project is described as follows:

Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quijote, which surely is easy enough – he wanted to compose the Quijote. Nor, surely, need one be obliged to note that his goal was never a mechanical transcription of the original; he had no intention to copying it. His admirable ambition was to produce a number of pages which coincided – word for word and line for line – with those of Miguel de Cervantes.32

What might it mean to remove a novel, or even just one sentence, from its historical place, and to write it again, word by word, but without copying or transcribing it? Menard’s project combines an ultimate fidelity to the novel (which is supposed to be Cervantes’ work and literary property) with an ultimate will for its usurpation. Menard wants to do nothing less than to literally “re-write” the Quijote, and in doing so, to expropriate its original author and bestow the text unto himself. The result of this arduous work of many years, albeit eventually indistinguishable from a mere transcription of the novel, is yet supposed to be something utterly different to the kind of product that results from a mere act of mindless copying. Menard does not insert the act of repetition into the work in its visible form (his ambition is not to produce new episodes in some kind of Cervantes-like style), but in the invisible process of its production, by assimilating himself to the cultural and intellectual conditions that formed Cervantes: “Initially, Menard’s method was to be relatively simple. Learn Spanish, return to Catholicism, fight against the Moor or the Turk, forget the history of Europe from 1602 to 1918 – be Miguel de Cervantes.”33 But Menard discards this method as “too easy,” for although he wants to “produce” the sentences of the novel over again, he does not want to do so “in dependence” to the person who wrote it in the early 17th century. Menard wants his novel to be read “as if Menard had conceived it.”34 That is why the text as repeated by Menard appears to be the same as the original; and yet is a completely different discourse. To say it in Febvre’s logic: Menard wants to show that the Quijote can be removed from its own time, which made it possible; that it can be produced anew, under completely different historical conditions, and that the same sentences, repeated in this manner, can begin to carry utterly new meanings. Historical time, as powerful as it may be, can not enclose a cultural object and assimilate it to the point where it becomes impossible and inconceivable outside its confines. An object, event, or trait can only exist, claims Febvre, if they belong to their own time, if their time allows for their existence. Menard is here to prove the opposite, not by modernizing Cervantes’ novel, nor by transferring it to our time, but by endowing the original sequence of letters with a new discursive stature through a modification of its mode of enunciation. At its heart, Borges’ tale is an exemplary discourse analysis by literary means, referring literary speech to “the different modalities of enunciation, instead of referring to the synthesis or the unifying function of a subject.”35

This is why the narrator can value the – fragmentary – result of Menard’s life-long efforts so highly: “The Cervantes text and the Menard text are verbally identical, but the second is almost infinitely richer.”36 It is infinitely richer because the same sentence opens up a completely new space of meanings or referents under the conditions of its re-writing, more than three centuries after its publication by Cervantes:

Composing the Quijote in the early seventeenth century was a reasonable, necessary, perhaps even inevitable undertaking; in the early twentieth, it is virtually impossible. Not for nothing have three hundred years elapsed, freighted with the most complex events. Among those events, to mention but one, is the Quijote itself.37

If the narrator attests a higher degree of subtlety to Menard’s Quijote, he does so because the novel calls upon a quite different cluster of associated utterances in Menard’s cultural situation. From the perspective of discourse analysis, statements such as “The Earth is round,” or “Species evolve,” do not constitute the same enunciation before and after Copernicus or Darwin, even though it is the same letters and words that are combined to form these different enunciations. What transforms the repetition of the same verbal phrase into historically distinct statements is their embeddedness into their own respective epistemological fields, as well as their relations to other claims, demonstrations, and observations. Borges’ tale concerns the weight of this kind of discursive materiality, for it is not the material element of a concrete copy, its datability, the moment when and the place where it was produced, that guarantees the identity of a statement.

Borges quotes an example for this discursive difference which is validated by the identity of the sentences written by Cervantes and by Menard. It is one sentence from the 9th chapter of the first part of Quijote, in which history is named – the mother of truth, “rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counselor.” “Written in the seventeenth century,” the narrator explains, “this catalog of attributes […] is a mere rhetorical praise of history.”38 But in Menard, who repeats the sentence unchanged, the thought is “staggering,” because he, “a contemporary of William James,” defines history “not as a delving into reality but as the very fount of reality”: “Historical truth, for Menard, is not ‘what happened’; it is what we believe happened.”39 To Menard, history is no longer a collection of examples, it has transformed into a collective singular, an unresistable force penetrating every aspect of reality and providing the only access to true knowledge about our own condition. It is easy to see that Menard’s new conception of the corresponding phrase in Cervantes is at once the credo of the scientific revolution performed by the nouvelle histoire, as it elevates history to the rank of the “mother of truth.” Febvre’s friend, the historian Marc Bloch, claimed, as we have seen, that “men bear greater resemblance to their time than to their parents,” and thus clearly anchored the truth of history in some kind of genealogical similarity and stable descent. Yet, as much as the program of the nouvelle histoire and the techniques of historical analyses that it deploys doubtlessly emerge from the 20th century, its historical truth could have been literally uttered even in the year 1605. As the narrator eventually concludes: “Menard has (perhaps unwittingly) enriched the slow and rudimentary art of reading by means of a new technique – the technique of deliberate anachronism and fallacious attribution.”40

Finally: “Why the Quijote? my reader may ask.”41 Is it a coincidence that Borges tells us about this excessive poetical mimesis, in which an author’s work takes possession of his late successor, with Don Quijote as his example? On Quijote, Michel Foucault writes in Les choses et les mots: “Like a sign, a long, thin graphism, a letter that has just escaped from the open pages of a book. His whole being is nothing but language, text, printed pages, stories that have already been written down.”42 And he continues:

The book is not so much his [Don Quixote’s] existence as his duty. He is constantly obliged to consult it in order to know what to do or say, and what signs he should give himself and others to show that he really is of the same nature as the text from which he springs. The chivalric romances have provided once and for all a written prescription for his adventures.43

We understand now the calculation by which Borges chose the Don Quijote: For what the books demand from the knight of the sad face as he reads them and they take possession of him, is what Cervantes’ book demands from Pierre Menard. The novel itself rests upon Cervantes’ fictitious translation of a fictitious Arabic manuscript. One of the three chapters recreated by Menard, the 9th chapter of the first part, tells the story of the fictitious discovery of the manuscript and the production of its translation. Menard, the new author of the Quijote, appears himself as no more than a long meager graphism, sacrificing his whole physical and literary existence to the task of repeating an oeuvre in absolute fidelity to each letter, and by this operation producing at the same time an utmost, yet unperceivable difference to what the original meaning of his master copy might have been. Cervantes’ novel is already situated in that outer space defined by the sum of all the discourses that repeat a historically obsolete chivalrous way of life. As Foucault writes: “Don Quijote reads the world in order to prove his books.”44 Pierre Menard, Borges’ fictitious hero and new author of the Quijote, reads Cervantes’ novel in order to prove it to be that book which reveals repeatability, and the production of difference through repetition, at the origin of modern literature that is so closely connected to the novel.

1 Jacques Rancière, “The Trouble with Ana,” Vom Nutzen und Nachteil historischer Vergleiche. Der Fall Bonn – Weimar, ed. Friedrich Balke and Benno Wagner (Frankfurt/M./New York: Campus, 1997), pp. 35–49.

2 Jacques Rancière, The Names of History. On the Politics of Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).

3 Jacques Rancière, Disagreement. Politics and Philosophy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), p. 30.

4 Ibid.

5 Rancière, The Names of History, p. 66.

6 Ibid., pp. 73–74.

7 Lucien Febvre, The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century. The Religion of Rabelais (Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 5.

8 Ibid., p. 5.

9 Ibid., p. 16.

10 Ibid., p. 17.

11 Febvre, The Problem of Unbelief, p. 336.

12 Ibid., pp. 336–337.

13 Ibid., p. 340.

14 Ibid., p. 347.

15 Ibid., p. 348.

16 Rancière, “Trouble,” p. 41.

17 Ibid., p. 43.

18 John L. Austin, How to do things with words (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 14.

19 Ibid., p. 15.

20 Michel de Certeau, Theoretische Fiktionen: Geschichte und Psychoanalyse (Vienna: Turia and Kant, 2006), p. 33.

21 Ibid.

22 Rancière, “Trouble,” p. 42.

23 Bernhard Siegert, Papiere und Passagiere. Schreibakte auf der Schwelle zwischen Spanien und Amerika (Munich: Fink, 2006), p. 77.

24 Ibid.

25 Natalie Zemon Davis, Fictions in the Archive. Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), p. 2.

26 Davis, Fictions, pp. 17–21.

27 See Siegert, Papiere und Passagiere, pp. 27–62.

28 Rancière, The Names of History, pp. 66–67.

29 Ibid., p. 67.

30 Ibid., p. 68.

31 Jorge Luis Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quijote,” Collected Fictions, ed. & trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Viking Press, 1998), p. 88–95, pp. 90–91.

32 Borges, “Quijote,” p. 91.

33 Ibid., 91.

34 Ibid., 92.

35 Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge Classics, 2005), p. 60.

36 Borges, “Quijote,” p. 94.

37 Ibid., p. 93.

38 Ibid., p. 94.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid., p. 95.

41 Ibid., p. 92.

42 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things. An archeology of the human sciences (London/New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p. 51.

43 Ibid., pp. 51–52.

44 Ibid., p. 52.

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Friedrich Balke

Friedrich Balke

studierte Philosophie, Germanistik und Pädagogik an der Ruhr-Universität Bochum. 2006 habilitierte er an der Philosophischen Fakultät der Universität Potsdam (Venia legendi für die Fächer Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaften). 2007 wurde er auf die Professor für Geschichte und Theorie künstlicher Welten an der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar berufen und war Sprecher des Graduiertenkollegs »Mediale Historiographien«. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte sind Grenzgebiete zwischen politischer Theorie, Literatur und Medien, Kultur- und Wissensgeschichte, Geschichte der Infamie.

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This volume contrasts a number of recently suggested concepts of the political – each of which connects to certain instances of art and literature in its discourse – with questions concerning the rigidity of those connections: How strongly do such claims to politics depend on their specific examples, what is the scope of their validity to understand art with regard to politics, and how can they help us grasp the political within other pieces of art? In each case, manners of thinking concepts of the political, the mutual resistance of such concepts and their academic treatment, and the turn towards specific readings informed by those concepts converge.

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