9780804733304

Bound to Act : Models of Action, Dramas of Inaction

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780804733304

  • ISBN10:

    0804733309

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1999-08-01
  • Publisher: Stanford Univ Pr
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Summary

This study of models of action seeks to respond to the loss of faith in political action that seems to predominate in Western societies, to the sense that there is nothing we can do to change the course of events, or that political action is ultimately useless, without effect in a world governed by independent political and economic laws. Its topic is the tension between the theme of the impossibility of acting, a question sinceHamlet, and the impression that many events involving human agency do indeed take place. The author deals with both philosophical and dramatic texts in addressing this question. These texts formulate the impossibility of acting in terms of the difficulty of thepassage a l'acte, which each inflects differently. Marlowe's Faustus bargains his soul away to a powerful servant capable of sparing him the necessity of action, but ultimately cannot refrain from acting. Hamlet spends his time wishing for thepassage a l'acteto take place, wondering why he does not act. In Locke'sTwo Treatises of Government, citizens are more than willing to renounce a considerable amount of their power to act in exchange for the political power of their word. Milton's Samson and Shelley's Prometheus find themselves literally bound by their speech acts; whereas Samson wants to be free to act, Prometheus would like to be free from action. Nietzsche'sThe Birth of Tragedydenounces and dethrones the Kantian subject, who wills himself abstracted from what he contemplates, and instead dramatizes the human subject as a spectator who is already part of the spectacle. Bakhtin addresses this fallen transcendental subject by explaining that the distance between subject and action is but the displacement (transportation) of the fundamental distinction between "me" and the "other." If Bakhtin returns agency to every life, Beckett and Wittgenstein show that it is still necessary to bring actions back within the realm of the practicable. Finally, in Baudrillard's and Lyotard's texts, the issue becomes irrelevant because the future has been programmed, if not physically accomplished, in cosmic and televisual spheres. By couching this historical narrative of concern about action in terms of models of action, the author hopes to critique positions like those of Baudrillard and Lyotard and help establish renewed modalities for accommodating action into our understanding of literature and of the world.

Author Biography

Valeria Wagner is an independent scholar living in Geneva.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1(1)
Men of action
1(7)
The mark of action
8(7)
The sounds of action
15(6)
Dramas of inaction
21(8)
Of Proud Audacious Deeds
29(35)
Still but a man
29(3)
``After the inward man,''
32(10)
Aristotle's philosophy of ends
42(8)
Action and spectacle
50(10)
Performing the form
60(4)
From Act to Compact
64(30)
Bodies placed to the view, purposes mistook
64(8)
Denote me truly
72(7)
The questionable shape of deeds
79(8)
To the mute audience of the act
87(7)
Locke and the Performative Subject
94(27)
Authorizing the individual
94(12)
The person in labor
106(8)
The performative subject
114(7)
The Harness of Necessity
121(31)
Binding acts
121(6)
Prometheus Bound: the rule of time
127(8)
Samson's ``uncontrollable intent,''
135(9)
Prometheus Unbound: undoing the bonds of the will
144(8)
Ought and Act
152(34)
Ought to act
152(8)
Nietzsche's philosophy of appearance
160(9)
Bakhtin's non-alibi in acting
169(8)
From appearance to rhythm
177(9)
Certain Acts: The Tiger's Thoughtless Bound
186(35)
Spirits of action
186(4)
The pale cast of thought
190(5)
Nothing to be done
195(7)
Putting language to work
202(19)
After Wars
221(26)
Acts of war
221(4)
Staged wars, stageless politics
225(11)
Staging the system
236(11)
Afterword: The Subject Is an Akrates 247(18)
Works Cited 265(4)
Index 269

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