In this dazzling new book, HOM associate member Wojciech Kaftanski offers a timely, important, and original contribution to the mimetic turn. He convincingly shows how Kierkegaard’s existential mimesis interlaces aesthetic and religious themes, including the familiar core concepts of imitation, repetition, and admiration as well as the newly arisen notions of affectivity, contagion, and crowd behavior. Available for pre-order at Routledge.
The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (1940-2021) sadly passed away on August 23, 2021, at the age of 81. One of the last giants of the structuralist and poststructuralist generation, Nancy authored over 200 books on subjects as diverse as German idealism and psychoanalysis, aesthetics and politics, subjectivity and community–devoting one of his last books to An All-Too -Human Virus (2021).
Nancy last visited the HIW in 2018 at the invitation of the HOM Project and gave a series of inspiring talks, seminars and interviews on mimesis, politics, and community. He will be much missed, but his philosophical traces remain to be followed up.
You can rewatch two video interviews at the HIW on HOM Videos, including one for VETO. More recently, in a written dialogue with Nidesh Lawtoo, Jean-Luc Nancy takes the recent return of attention to mimesis, the mimetic turn, as a starting point for considering the relationship between philosophy and literature. Reflecting on his lifelong philosophical project, Nancy stresses the centrality of mimesis at play in the linguistic turn, deconstruction, community, and sharing during and beyond Covid-19. Interview available here.
How could a mimetic crowd go so easily from a conspiracy theory to a (new) fascist insurrection? In this piece for TCC Nidesh Lawtoo argues that what is surprising is not that the crowd hit the U.S. Capitol like a wave, but that no one in power saw this announced wave coming. If it is still unclear how (hyper)mimesis goes from conspiracy theory to (new) fascist actions, find out more here. Versione intervista in italiano per il CdT (con Carlo Silini): L’Assalto al Campidoglio.For related events on the importance to counter (new) fascism see also, Settima Lettera on Freud, Fascism, & Myth (March-June 2021); New Fascism & the Mimetic Unconscious (KU Leuven, Marc 24 ) New Fascisms, New Resistances (U Beragmo, 22-23 April)
In this interview for the Minnesota Review, J. Hillis Miller and Nidesh Lawtoo take one of the most influential concepts in Western aesthetics, mimēsis, as an Ariadne’s thread to retrace the major turns in Miller’s career and, by extension, to promote a re-turn of mimesis in literary theory and criticism. More here .
Rather than considering the banality of evil as symptomatic of Eichmann’s “inability to think,” the essay foregrounds the affective, contagious, and, in this sense, mimetic tendencies at play in Eichmann’s personality (from Latin, persona, theatrical mask). This move is instrumental to articulate a middle path between Arendt’s theoretical diagnostic of Eichmann as “terrifyingly normal” and Bettina Stangneth’s recent historical account of Eichmann as a “fanatical National Socialist.” My wager is that the ancient problematic of mimēsis (from Greek, mimos, mime) casts a new and original light on the psychic foundations of a type of evil that is as relevant to understand the psychology of fascism in the past century as its rising shadow in the present century. Article also available here
The HOM project is pleased to announce that Daniel Villegas Velez’s book, Mimetologies is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.
Mimetologies examines the critical aesthetic concept of mimesis in the history of musical aesthetics. Two main interpretations of mimesis or, as this book calls them, mimetologies dominate aesthetic theory. On the one hand, mimesis is an aesthetic problem rooted in the distinction between copies and originals, as well as the creation of fictional worlds. On the other hand, mimesis involves a complex of neuro-psychological tendencies to copy or imitate others that characterizes the human as Homo mimeticus and which grounds the genesis of subjects and communities. These two mimetologies—one emphasizing vision and authenticity, the other affective contagion and becoming—run largely separate and music appears to have no place in either. Yet, as this book demonstrates, music is at the origin of both.
Mimetologies continues an interrogation of mimesis initiated by Jacques Derrida and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1976) and genealogical examinations of the role of mimetic behavior in the formation of subjectivity to highlight music’s function in mobilizing affective performance to shape communities. Adopting a long-term historical perspective that extends from ancient Greece through seventeenth-century Italy, eighteenth-century France, to early nineteenth-century Germany—with an ear to their resonances in Colonial Latin America—Mimetologies shows that mimesis has been a constant undercurrent in the history of modern music, especially at the moments when music and mimesis seemed most distant from one another. By revealing the role of mimetic musical performance between aesthetics and politics—mimesis as representation and mimesis as contagion—Mimetologies reintegrates music into the history of aesthetics, while providing new conceptual tools to critically think the role of music in Western society.
We all know that TV satirical news shows play an essential role in unmasking political lies, promoting critical thinking, and fighting for free speech in an age under the spell of (new) fascist leaders. But did you know that by focusing so much media attention on apprentice presidents the same comics might also paradoxically (and against their best intentions) play in favor of the comic fascism they critique? If you read this article, you will know.
In “Plato and the Simulacrum,” Deleuze distinguishes between two types of mimetic images: the icon, which is based on the model-copy relation, and the simulacrum, which is “a copy without a model.” In this article, Daniel Villegas Velez argues that behind this well-known distinction, however, lies a previously unexplored distinction between the simulacrum and the phantasm. Full article available here.
In conversation with Wojciech Kaftanski, Nidesh Lawtoo presents his last book, (New) Fascism (MSU P 2019) at the Institute of Philosophy (Husserl Archives, KU Leuven, October 2019). A diagnostic of crowd behavior, mythic identifications, and mimetic contagion constitutive of the growing shadow of fascism.
Fascism tends to be relegated to a dark chapter of European history, but what if new forms of fascism are currently returning to the forefront of the political scene? In (New) Fascism: Contagion, Community, Myth (August 1, 2019) Nidesh Lawtoo diagnoses the case of Trump to illustrate the (un)timeliness of Nietzsche’s claim that, one day, “‘actors,’ all kinds of actors, will be the real masters.” Preview and order here.
“The book is a testament to the power of reasoning to unmask and resist cruel forms of affective contagion, even as it opens the door to the project of composing generous and laudable admixtures of pathos and logos. A bracing and elegant book very much worth reading.”
—JANE BENNETT, Professor, Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University, and author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things