Studies in Irreversibility
The premise of Studies in Irreversibility: Texts and Contexts is that there is a big difference between phenomena, practices, processes, and events that are irreversible and those that are reversible, and moreover that this difference and its manifold implications remain underappreciated so long as the analysis of culture continues to anchor itself in an emphasis on the capacities of human agency. If messianic modes posit a future to justify the present, and so interpret the influence of the past, the papers in this collection are devoted to examining the present of experience from the perspective of its uncompromising and irreducible past, finding in irreversibility a key to an interpretation of futurity. Together, these papers outline a method of examining experience as something more-or at least other-than the desire to know it, and in so doing they shed light on the powerful role of normativity in the narratives we construct in and about culture.Through novel analyses from the disciplines of literature, art criticism, history, philosophy, ethnic studies, and ethics, the contributors to this book address key questions about the nature of irreversibility: What differentiates the experience of the irreversible from the experience of the reversible? How is irreversibility recognized? What happens when we acknowledge something to be irreversible? How has society contended with irreversibility, and what sorts of tools exist today to interpret its significance? Wary of impetuously fixing the meaning of a still-elusive concept, this volume collects papers that employ a wide array of methodologies, mindful that no one critical approach may yet have proved itself. Irreversibility is not simply a quality of the texts examined in this volume, nor is it strictly speaking a lens through which otherwise coherent or stable texts are examined, rather, it emerges as a model that brings together texts and the thinking of them.By together outlining a method of examining culture that moves beyond reliance on tropes such as functionalism, teleology, and chance, tropes that have dominated twentieth century cultural analysis, these papers help to inaugurate a new paradigm in the study of culture.
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