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
In this interview with EU Research, Nidesh Lawtoo explains the main aspects of the HOM project by outlining, in broad and accessible strokes, the good and bad effects of unconscious mimesis investigated by the HOM team in areas as diverse as philosophy, the arts, and politics. He argues that the power of mimesis to transform subjectivity is “not only a scholarly problem, but a human, all too human problem.” Full interview available here.
This article reconsiders the power of myth in light of the rise of new fascist leaders who cast a shadow on the contemporary political scene. Part of a special issue on Myth and Modernity (ed. Hannes Opelz), Nidesh Lawtoo looks back to Lacoue-Labarthe’s and Nancy’s, “The Nazi Myth,” to account for the affective power of myth that is currently being reloaded both in Europe and the US–an argument internal to a forthcoming book on (New) Fascism (2019). Article available here.
In this article Nidesh Lawtoo establishes a genealogical connection between the emerging concept of plasticity and the ancient philosophical concept of mimesis in order to further an ongoing dialogue between contemporary continental philosophy and the neurosciences. Article available here.