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An introduction
Neil Cornwell

’. There have always been constraints imposed on the posing of the most difficult questions, from Aristotle’s injunction, ‘one must stop’, to Kant’s caution over those ‘absurd’ questions that ‘not only [bring] shame on the propounder of the question, but may betray an incautious listener into absurd answers’ (Critique of Pure Reason: cited Fotiade, 197). The shame of absurdity can therefore call forth moderation! 4 Introductory Ontology, Nihilism, Existentialism Logic is doubtless unshakeable, but it cannot withstand a man who wants to go on living. (Franz Kafka, The

in The absurd in literature
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Mark Brown

.’ (Auster, 1988: 46–7) This chapter will examine how in two novels in particular, Auster represents spaces which, like the unimaginable ‘Timbuktu’ or Eden, cannot be found on the map. The places represented in The Music of Chance and In the Country of Last Things are born entirely of imagination, and contain unreal and unknowable forces. These places do however exhibit characteristics that have their origin in real locations. The ‘fictional’ places which result allow Auster to explore the extremes of human experience, and to show how ontological stability is constantly

in Paul Auster
The ‘negative dialectics’ of The Maximus Poems
Tim Woods

17 ‘Moving among my particulars’: the ‘negative dialectics’ of The Maximus Poems Tim Woods Riven by striking tensions and fissures, The Maximus Poems is nevertheless an optimistic narrative of adventure and edification, a journey of the modern spirit that is preoccupied with the possibility of its own structure and being. Indeed, Olson’s very line structures constantly defy the laws of grammar as they test the ontological imagination beyond its conventional boundaries. The ‘sentences’ begin with subjects that frequently appear interchangeable with their objects

in Contemporary Olson
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‘The fork in the road’
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

structures of government surveillance and rapidly changing forms of information technology all encourage the kinds of anxiety that paranoia fosters. Moreover, as The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow and Vineland all make explicit, technologies come to structure both the epistemological and ontological contours of Pynchon’s world such that, as Leo Bersani points out, these aspects of social reality work to legitimate the paranoid narrative: ‘at least in the traditional sense of the word’, Pynchon’s paranoids are ‘really not paranoid at all’.10 Emily Apter’s vision of a

in Thomas Pynchon
David Darby

by Austerlitz (or occasionally only by the narrator) and whose appearance – and often disappearance – is described in metaphors based explicitly on photographic processes and technologies. Just as Sebald is interested in ‘the non-static, ontological moments of photography’ (Patt 2007: 72), so too he focuses on the experience of moments at which memories both become and recede.2 Most prominent among the places where these momentary images are revealed are the book’s four major railway stations. It is in Sebald’s metaphoric darkrooms, dark zones of transition between

in A literature of restitution
From insular peace to the Anglo-Boer War
Julia F. Saville

defending what he believed were ideals under attack by renegade factions, Swinburne was nonetheless capable of sustaining a negotiative ethics when meditating on radical philosophical and ontological difference (such as fate or death). This capability is borne out by one of his last swimming poems, ‘The Lake of Gaube’ (Swinburne 1904 , 6.284–7), published only days before the outbreak of the South African war. A masterful synthesis

in Algernon Charles Swinburne
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Over a writing career spanning more than fifty years, Thomas Pynchon has been at the forefront of America's engagement with postmodern literary possibilities. This book explores the ways in which postmodernity, and its embrace of epistemological, ethical and ontological aporia, is put to work in the service of profound reflections on the political possibilities of narrative. Pynchon remains the most elusive and important writer of American postmodernity. V., Thomas Pynchon's first novel, was published in 1963. Within the dialectic of freedom and constraint , Pynchon's characters find themselves in networks of signification they struggle to understand but which urge them to make connections and establish forms of relationship. Of the stories reprinted in Thomas Pynchon's Slow Learner, the book discusses three in detail: 'Low-lands', 'The Secret Integration' and 'Entropy'. It examines how critics have argued about the ways in which Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 sets it in the contexts of debates about modernism and postmodernism. Published in 1973, Gravity's Rainbow has frequently been described by critics as Pynchon's most complex, challenging and experimental novel. Vineland describes how the paranoid sensibility is encouraged and maintained by structures of power that require the identification and persecution of an enemy who is variously defined across the political history of the United States. Mason & Dixon, published in 1997, takes the reader back to the period of the country's founding and the historical densities of eighteenth-century colonial culture. Against the Day is an epic novel of global and other-worldly proportions.

Paul Wake

defined as the only entity from which the nature of Being might be deduced, it is distinguished from other entities by the fact that it is the only entity for which its own Being is an issue. It has an ontical priority in that at all times it relates itself to its own Being, and from this issues an ontological priority: Dasein has an implicit understanding of its relation to its own Being. The essence of Dasein is effectively in its existence: ‘Dasein always understands itself in terms of its existence – in terms of a possibility of itself: to be itself or not itself

in Conrad’s Marlow
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Genet our contemporary
Carl Lavery

society will get down to business as usual. This is the very thing that Genet is against. For Genet, individual and social being is built upon a wound that resists healing. The only progressive way of living with the wound as I have shown in the previous pages, is to acknowledge its presence and to wager on the equality it discloses. The anachronism of the wound, its stubborn refusal to be subtlated ontologically (and thus historically), is precisely why the strong utopianism of Genet’s late theatre endures. Genet is not interested in improving or reforming the State

in The politics of Jean Genet’s late theatre
Glyn White

argues that graphic devices in narrative texts raise ontological problems for the reader by foregrounding the book as object. The disruption of the graphic surface becomes, for him, a signifier of postmodernism indicating the authorial intention of jolting readers into an awareness that they hold a product of pigment and paper in their hands. McHale demonstrates a number of ways in which this occurs (which we shall be

in Reading the graphic surface