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Mr Jack Robert Coopey, BA English Literature and History (University of Leicester), MLitt Intellectual History (University of St Andrews), PhD German (Durham University)

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The Concept of Totality from Kant to Derrida: A Form of Aesthetic Negativity

Abstract: Fredric Jameson (1934-) is a contemporary literary theorist and philosopher who promulgates the Marxist concept of totality. Totality is a concept that denotes the attempt to capture the whole reality of the world and its conditions. The justification of attempting to capture the whole as opposed to a particular aspect is supported by the assumption that one cannot make sense of a singular element without reference to a larger whole. Therefore, totality is a concept that attempts to solve the problem of the relation between parts to the whole. Its claim is that through forms of thought one can assimilate the whole and reach objectivity. The history of the concept of totality has a longer genealogy prior to the advent of Marx, finding its coinage in Kant. The problem of totality after Kant is further challenged by the German Classicist Goethe and German Romantic Schlegel, and critiqued by Hegel. Marx then inherits this tradition of the objective conditions of modes of thought and relates these modes to objective, material realities.

Various strands of Marxism develop out of his thought some abandoning totality, others expanding upon it. In recent decades post-structuralism emerging out of Marxism attempted to deconstruct all representational attempts to reach for totality. Jameson was caught in these two differing conceptions of totality, and he claims that he can elaborate both traditions. Recent scholarship on Jameson and totality reveals that it not only traces further back to Plato and his theory of mimesis, but that totality is inextricably linked to the problem of literary representation. The question of totality therefore is one of representation which involves the various modes in which writers and philosophers have attempted to reach objectivity in their metaphysics, epistemology and ontology. Jameson has analysed various texts and traditions throughout his ongoing career revealing his continuing persistence with the concept of totality. However, Jameson has not only inherited these differing modes of totality, but constructed them into a new totality of discourses. It is evident that Jameson sees totality in a physical, material, psychical, ideological, discursive and phenomenological terms. Jameson also uses totality as a means by which to unite Marxist, structuralist, psychoanalytic, hermeneutic, deconstructionist and formalist interpretations of contexts, texts and reader understandings.

In particular, Jameson performs a commentary on Goethe's Wilhelm Meister in The Antinomies of Realism attempting to use totality to unite the context of Goethe, the structure of the text itself and the reader understandings produced by the text. Therefore, Jameson opens up the possibility of analysing German Classicism and Romanticism with its reaction against Kant, and its relation to totality and realism in how the Romantics attempted to simultaneously depict their historical reality, and to transcend their context by producing an artwork as a totality. However, it is evident that Jameson himself has interlocutors in his methodology of promulgating totality. Jameson inherits the analysis of Goethe from Lukács in The Theory of the Novel and his theory of reification concerning literature as an inverted mirror-reflection of the world. Jameson also adopts Deleuze's claim to ask how a text works rather than what it means. Jameson too uses Adorno's system of thought of negative dialectics and dialectical sentences to subvert anticipated interpretations of texts to politicize the subject with an aesthetic experience. Jameson in his criticism attempts to totalize these various strands of literary theory to produce a new historical moment of interpretation. In conclusion, Jameson's attempt to overcome the critiques of totality takes form in the anti-representational thinkers Heidegger and Derrida, in which they claim that dialectics as a mode of totality are an impossibility. However, Jameson claims that these thinkers are themselves dialectical and totalizing in claiming that there are no right interpretations of texts. In what follows, the question of whether Jameson succeeds in regards to his promulgation of totality is the one problematized.

Research Interests

  • Enlightenment Studies, Poststructuralism, German Romanticism, German Idealism, Literary Theory, Literature, History, Philosophy

Teaching Areas

  • Invigilator

    (10 hours/year.)
  • Mentor at Josephine Butler College

    (10 hours/year.)
  • Resident Tutor at Josephine Butler College

    (10 hours/year.)

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Coopey Robert Jack (Accepted). Artifice: Francisco Suárez and Heidegger's Modernity of Metaphysics, A Baroque contribution to the downfall of Scholastic thought. Journal of Jesuit Studies (Brill)
  • Coopey Robert Jack (Accepted). Citadels: Crisis of Representation as Authoritarian, The Ruling Class in Adorno and Rosanvallon. Philosophy and Public Issues
  • Coopey, Robert, Jack (Accepted). Obelisks: Scholem's Messianism in the Utopianism of Scripture. Jewish Thought in the Context of World Philosophy Thematic issue of the Judaica Petropolitana

Book review

  • Coopey, Robert, Jack (Accepted). Geoffrey Bennington: Kant on the Frontier: Philosophy, Politics, and the Ends of the Earth. Phenomenological Reviews

Conference Paper

  • (Forthcoming), Behemoth: Benjamin's Critique of Violence, Deconstructing the Concept of Violence. Law and Power in Heidegger, Benjamin, Derrida and Foucault 18-19 May 2017 Spring School. University of Halle (Martin Luther Universität), Germany.
  • (Forthcoming), Hospitalities: The Question of Technology and Modernity, Alienation and Being, A Shadow of Nostalgia from Walter Benjamin, Cambridge French Graduate Conference 2017 #NousSommes. Cambridge, England.
  • (Accepted), Theodicy of Theogony: The Decadence of Enlightenment Value-Meanings, Humanism of the Death Camps, Workshop: Primo Levi and Jean Améry: Auschwitz and the Possibility of Enlightenment Secular Humanism. King's College, London.
  • (2017), Avowals: Arendt's Heideggereanism and its deconstruction of authoritarianism, Arendt and Critical Theory Today 2nd Istanbul Critical Theory Conference – in Exile at the Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg*. Oldenburg, Germany.
  • (2017), Barefooted: Nietzsche Contra Platonism, Nietzsche's Negative Theology and Heidegger's Last Metaphysical Thinker, 23rd International Conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society 'Nietzsche’s God(s): Theism, Pantheism and Atheism' Bath Spa University, UK, September 1-3, 2017. Bath Spa University, England.
  • (2017), Blessedness: Lenin and the Event of Empirico-Criticism as Praxis, International Conference One Hundred Years That Shook the World: Failures, Legacies, and Futures of the Russian Revolution. St.Gallen, Switzerland.
  • (2017), Critique or Violence: Arendt's critique of totalitarianism and Benjamin's violence of the constellation, a Messianism, 10th International Critical Theory Conference of Rome. Rome, Italy
  • (2017), Flows and Plateaus: Henri Bergson's Philosophy of Life and Deleuze's Vitalism, A humanization of the Science of Life, Religion, Society, and the Science of Life, 2017 IRC-ISSR Conference, Oxford, 19-22 July. Oxford.
  • (2017), Foucault and the Art of the Self -- Body and Corporeality in Ancient Philosophy, Opera Fieri. Portugal.
  • (2017), Holograms: A Critique of Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer and Alain Badiou's Theory of the Subject towards a nihilistic ethics of resistance, Beyond Humanism Conference Rome 2017. Rome, Italy
  • (2017), Hourglass Dawns: The Becoming of Time as Space, Contemporary Post-Phenomenological Philosophy and its nemesis of Time in the Work of Agamben, Nancy and Jameson, Materiality of Time: Phenomenology and its Place in Archaeology. Cardiff, Wales.
  • (2017), Idea of Form: Lukács and the Theory of the Novel: A Radical Foundation to Theories of Form and towards a Revolutionary Philosophy of Literature, The Legacy of Georg Lukács An International Conference, 27–29 April, 2017. Budapest, Hungary
  • (2017), Logics of Law: Kant's Aesthetic and the Authority of Right to Duty, Bucharest Graduate Conference in Early Modern Philosophy. Bucharest, Romania.
  • (2017), Obelisks: Benjamin's and Derrida's Messianism in the Utopianism of Scripture and its foundation in the Talmud, Jewish Thought in the Context of World Philosophy. St Petersburg, Russia.
  • (2017), Parsimonies: Feminine Difference and its Non-Identity towards Resistance and Emancipation, 8th Irigaray Circle Conference 23rd - 25th June 2017. Winchester, England.
  • (2017), The Ethics of Evil: Teleology and Foucault's War on the Self, Teleology - Conceptual Corpse or Plastic Concept? 2017 CRMEP Graduate Conference. London.
  • (2017), Thorns & Thistles: Recoils of the Subject and its Plateaus of Sensations, A Post-Deleuzian Critique, CAPPE Giving Life to Politics: The Work of Adriana Cavarero. Brighton, England.
  • (2017), Vistas: Foucault and the Birth of the Medical Gaze, A Critique of Western Metaphysics and a comparison to Chinese traditions of Medicine, Biennial Meeting of the European Association for Chinese Philosophy. Basel, Switzerland.
  • (2016), Against Methodology; The Limits and Boundaries of Historical Knowledge, Discourse and Representation; The Cambridge School; Authorial Intention, Contextualisation and Biographical notes in contrast to the Foucauldian Archaeology, History Department Research Seminar. St Andrews, Scotland.
  • (2016), Halos, A Deconstruction of the Critiques of International Political Economy and its Discontents, World (dis)order. St Andrews, Scotland.
  • (2016), Telluric, An Exposition of Walter Benjamin's contributions to the contemporary understanding of History itself through the philosophical analysis of historical research, Contemporary History Workshop, University of Cambridge. Cambridge, England.
  • (2016), The Ethics of Resistance: Sovereignty and Territoriality in Foucault's College de France lectures (1970-1984), Narrating Nation, Sovereignty and Territory. Durham, England.
  • (2015), How does History shape identity in Geoffrey Bennington’s Jacques Derrida? (1993), The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2017. Japan.

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