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January 26, 2001
9780801865138
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v2.1 Reference
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May 1, 2003
9780801876271
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The Delirium of Praise

Bataille, Blanchot, Deleuze, Foucault, Klossowski

The laudatory essay, in which one author praises the work of another, is frequently characterized as an unimportant, even uncritical mode of writing. But as Eleanor Kaufman argues in The Delirium of Praise, this mode of exchange is serious and substantial enough to merit scholarly attention. By not conforming to standard practices of critical discourse, laudatory essays give new status to supposedly inferior forms of communication and states of being—including chatter, silence, sickness, imbalance, and absence of work—and emphasize affective states or emotions such as joy, friendship, and longing.

The Delirium of Praise examines a group of five twentieth-century French intellectuals—Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Pierre Klossowski—and their laudatory essays about each other. Structured as a circular series of exchanges, the book examines pairings of two thinkers with respect to a given theme. The exchange between Bataille and Blanchot takes up the themes of chatter and silence with regard to the novelist Louis-René des Forêts; the Blanchot-Foucault exchange explores friendship and impersonality through the lens of Jacques Derrida; the Foucault-Deleuze exchange considers "absence of work" (désoeuvrement) and the obscure French philosopher Jacques Martin; the Deleuze-Klossowski exchange revolves around the question of the sick body and the person of Nietzsche; and the final exchange between Klossowski and Bataille focuses on imbalanced economies and the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Where the praise is most excessive, approaching delirium, Kaufman locates a powerful thought-energy that pushes the laudatory essay to its limits. In her conclusion, she presents this unique mode of thought exchange as a form of intellectual hospitality.

Kaufman uncovers a suspension of subjectivity, of personality, even of place and time, that is both articulated in the laudatory essays and enacted by them. Her examination of this neglected mode as practiced by five important French thinkers offers a unique perspective on twentieth-century intellectual history.

About the Author

Eleanor Kaufman is an assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia and coeditor of Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy, and Culture.

Reviews

"An original and illuminating appraisal of one of the most important groups of writers within twentieth-century French thought."—Iam James, French Studies

"What gives her study its remarkable coherence is the emphatically textual instantiation of the friendships between Bataille, Blanchot, Deleuze, Foucault, and Klossowski . . . The Delirium of Praise is to be commended for its remarkable conciseness, which is the reward of a lucid structure and accounts for its compact size. In addition to these achievements, it needs be noted that it can also be read as an introduction to the work of Pierre Klossowski, long overdue in English, as Kaufman rightly points out . . . her insightful but elliptical remarks make the reader hope that she will find an opportunity to revisit both the works of Klossowski and the many refreshingly original questions raised in this inquiry of truly impressive scope."—Arnd Wedemeyer, MLN

"Kaufman writes beautifully, so this book will be of immense value not only to students of recent French literature and philosophy but also to anyone interested in the declining cultural power and presence of intellectual exchange . . . A serious contribution to the literary dimensions of philosophy."—Choice

"Cogently and elegantly written, The Delirium of Praise succeeds in locating the creative force of interwoven and complicated expressions of friendship. Going against the pragmatic and edifying traditions of literature, Kaufman's book rewards where it unsettles, or where it displaces and confuses received ideas about the ends of communication and dialogue."—Tom Conley, Harvard University

"Kaufman's book offers many provocative insights into the closed world of Parisian intellectual after World War II . . . Stylishly written."—Steven Winspur, Dalhousie French Studies

"Kaufman's book is a remarkably astute work that manages to do the impossible: read these elusive authors together, identifying at the same time the specificities of their remarkable sameness and their concomitant radical difference."—Allan Stoekl, Comparative Literature Studies

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