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Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue
Series: Critical Powers

This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.

New interdisciplinary essays

Francis Bacon produced his final draft of the New Atlantis around the years 1624-1625. Standing at the threshold of early modern thought, Bacon's text operates at the interstices of its contemporary culture and does indeed signal a desire to 'illuminate all the border-regions that confine upon the circle of our present knowledge'. This book presents a collection of essays that show how the New Atlantis negotiates a variety of contexts, namely literary, philosophical, political, religious and social, in order to achieve this. The narrative begins with a standard literary device. When Bacon wrote the New Atlantis, he clearly had More's Utopia in mind as a model. For all his strictures on the use of language for rhetorical effect, Francis Bacon was thoroughly grounded in the Renaissance art of rhetoric. He consciously drew on his rhetorical skill in his writings, adapting his style as occasion demanded. The New Atlantis is a text about natural philosophy which seems to offer connections at almost every point with moral and political philosophy. The book discusses two forms of natural knowledge that Bacon takes up and develops in the New Atlantis: natural magic, and medicine. The modern project is crucially dependent on two fundamental miracles: the miracle of creation and the miracle of divine revelation. The book also analyses Bacon's representations of colonialism and Jewishness in the New Atlantis has revealed. The New Atlantis raises questions concerning the relationship between censorship and knowledge.

Eric Pudney

This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Heywood and Richard Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches. Heywood’s previous interest in witchcraft (as shown in his previous works Gynaeikon and The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels) and other discussion of witchcraft from the period provide the intellectual context. It is argued that both context and play demonstrate an increasingly prevalent bifurcation in attitudes towards witchcraft: individual cases of witchcraft are treated with much greater scepticism than previously, but belief in witchcraft in general remains an important cornerstone of religious faith for most orthodox Christians. While the play maintains the reality of witchcraft as a demonic pact in one important scene, it also reveals the growing scepticism of the contemporary culture.

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
Open Access (free)
Incest and beyond
Jenny DiPlacidi

Like a malevolent virus, Gothic narratives have escaped the confines of literature and spread across disciplinary boundaries to infect all kinds of media … Gothic texts deal with a variety of themes just as pertinent to contemporary culture as to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

in Gothic incest
Open Access (free)
Andrew Bowie

these questions affect contemporary political and social dilemmas has rarely been adequately addressed, because too many recent theories of contemporary culture have relied on a model in which power or the symbolic order is the ultimate determining factor in the constitution of modern subjectivity. Although insertion into language does undermine the notion of a purely spontaneous, ‘immediate’ self, the mediation of the self by language does not per se, as Schleiermacher shows, obviate the possibility of linguistic innovation and selfdetermination within – and possibly

in Aesthetics and subjectivity
Open Access (free)
An introduction
John J. Joughin
Simon Malpas

important role in engaging with virtually any area of modern society.1 An introduction 3 Bowie’s case, that without ‘an orientation towards understanding the truth-potential in art that is more than ideology, many of the most essential issues concerning the significance of art cannot even be discussed’,2 is, we would like to argue, compelling. Art is inextricably tied to the politics of contemporary culture, and has been throughout modernity. Aesthetic specificity is not, however, entirely explicable, or graspable, in terms of another conceptual scheme or genre of

in The new aestheticism
Contemporary ‘British’ cinema and the nation’s monarchs
Andrew Higson

definition colours the way in which these royal films work – as historical dramas, they take us back to an earlier period, and sometimes to a pre-industrial space, and rely heavily on a sense of tradition and convention. But as films, they are part of the modern industrialised culture of consumption. How then do these various films function in contemporary culture? To tackle this question it is necessary to

in The British monarchy on screen
Open Access (free)
Crossing the margins
Glenda Norquay
Gerry Smyth

University of Aberdeen and to be known from January 2001 as the AHRB Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies in recognition of an impressive grant from that body) have produced excellent multidisciplinary research, it would appear that scholars are still most confident when working with identifiable cross-border connections – such as neglected political networks in Scottish and Irish history, for example, or in shared cultural frameworks – than tracing intersections in contemporary culture and literature. We hope therefore that this book contributes to critical analysis

in Across the margins
Open Access (free)
Aesthetics, fragmentation and community
Simon Malpas

directors, of a managerial office’.26 In the face of the fragmentation of contemporary cultures, there is little possibility of recourse to a universal governing notion of truth or emancipation. According to Nancy, ‘Our time is the time . . . when this [grand narrative] history has been suspended: total war, genocide, the challenge of nuclear powers, implacable technology, hunger, and absolute misery, all these are, at the least, evident signs of selfdestroying humanity, of self-annihilating history, without any possibility of the dialectic work of the negative’.27 It is

in The new aestheticism
Art and the temporalities of geomedia
Gavin MacDonald

regulate conduct by regulating the visibility of content. Graham, Zook and Boulton describe ‘timeless power’ as a ‘flattening of time’ (Graham, Zook, and Boulton, 2013: 470), but rather than rehearsing the cartographic version of timelessness, they instead refer to Castell’s cultural and technological concept of timeless time; likening the excessive, multiple temporalities of photographic mapping to the disordering of chronology that Castells sees as characteristic of contemporary culture. Like Dodge and Perkins (2009), Graham and his co-authors also Traces, tiles

in Time for mapping