The Pathos of the Real
On the Aesthetics of Violence in the Twentieth Century
The works at the center of this study—by Franz Kafka, Georges Bataille, Claude Simon, Peter Weiss, and Heiner Müller—zero in on scenes of agony, destruction, and death with an astonishing degree of precision and detail. The strange and troubling nature of the appeal engendered by these sights is the subject of The Pathos of the Real. Robert Buch shows that the spectacles of suffering conjured up in these texts are deeply ambivalent, available neither to cathartic relief nor to the sentiment of compassion. What prevails instead is a peculiar coincidence of opposites: exaltation and resignation; disfiguration and transfiguration; agitation and paralysis.
Featuring the experiences of violent excess in strongly visual and often in expressly pictorial terms, the works expose the nexus between violence and the image in twentieth-century aesthetics. Buch explores this tension between visual and verbal representation by drawing on the rhetorical notion of pathos as both insurmountable suffering and codified affect and the psychoanalytic notion of the real, that is, the disruption of the symbolic order.
In dialogue with a diverse group of thinkers, from Erich Auerbach and Aby Warburg to Alain Badiou and Jacques Lacan, The Pathos of the Real advances an innovative new framework for rethinking the aesthetics of violence in the twentieth century.
About the Author
"The Pathos of the Real offers a masterful analysis of the ways in which the arts render experience at the point of its breakdown. Buch expertly guides his readers through primal scenes of violence in which the link between the fragility of our embodied lives—our capacity to be wounded—and our capacity to make (and suffer the unmaking of) meaning is most intense."—Eric L. Santner, The University of Chicago
"Ambitious comparative study. . . Provides new insights into a range of canonical texts."—Choice
"Readers might find themselves hankering for more books of this complexity and depth in the field of modern language literatures."—Sarah Colvin, Modern Language Review
"At the same time as The Pathos of the Real is valuable for engaging individual authors and works, it persuasively demonstrates a characteristic tension in twentieth-century literature between iconophilia and iconoclasm, cool detachment and vulnerable complicity, exposure and resistance."—Benjamin Robinson, German Quarterly
Other Titles from Rethinking Theory
Other Titles in LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory
Other Titles in Literary theory