© 2005

Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory

From Auschwitz to Hiroshima to September 11

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Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)

About this book


The eleven interconnected essays of this book penetrate the dense historical knots binding terror, power and the aesthetic sublime and bring the results to bear on the trauma of September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror. Through rigorous critical studies of major works of post-1945 and contemporary culture, the book traces transformations in art and critical theory in the aftermath of Auschwitz and Hiroshima. Critically engaging with the work of continental philosophers, Theodor W. Adorno, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Francois Lyotard and of contemporary artists Joseph Beuys, Damien Hirst, and Boaz Arad, the book confronts the shared cultural conditions that made Auschwitz and Hiroshima possible and offers searching meditations on the structure and meaning of the traumatic historical 'event'. Ray argues that globalization cannot be separated from the collective tasks of working through historical genocide. He provocatively concludes that the current US-led War on Terror must be grasped as a globalized inability to mourn.


Adolf Hitler Jacques Derrida structure

About the authors

GENE RAY has taught at New College of Florida, USA and the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is a former German Chancellor's Scholar of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, USA.

Bibliographic information


"This book sees, without sentiment, into the dark heart of our world; war is the health of the state, and nuclear exterminism the perfection of its logic. Ray not only explores, with fierce lucidity, this terrible truth and the ways in which it implicates the human psyche and imagination, but prepares the critical ground for the gathering of counter-powers to capitalist modernity and the spectacle. An artful, profound work of radical aesthetics." - Iain A. Boal, University of California, Berkeley

"Ray's book demonstrates a continuing commitment to cultural critique that extends and exceeds its formulation in the Frankfurt School, most especially in the writings of Adorno. Taken together, his collected essays constitute a penetrating witness to late twentieth-century cultural history. There are, to my knowledge, simply no books out there that provide a similarly penetrating and wide-ranging account, with such a clear critical trajectory." - Barbara McCloskey, University of Pittsburgh

"Many contemporary theorists have recently turned their attention to the relation between art and politics. In this area, however, Ray's work is unique: philosophically informed as well as imaginative, analytically forceful and yet poetic, it highlights the task of productive mourning necessary for a post-fantasmatic reorientation of critical theory and radical politics." - Yannis Stavrakakis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki