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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Luke Sunderland

Sunderland, Luke (2018). Medieval Cultures and Modern Crises: Agamben’s Troubadours, Angels and Monks. Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 23(5): 77-93.

Author(s) from Durham


Giorgio Agamben is accused of political passivity, but this article argues that he sees the potential for resistance in modes of being inactive and unproductive, in study, play and profanity, which alone can escape the binary oppositions through which modern power operates, most notably the attempt to separate useful from useless life. He finds the resources for this model in very diverse locations, including the poetry of the troubadours, medieval thought about angels and medieval monastic movements. Agamben argues that such texts retain philosophical potential which is revealed precisely by modern crises of subjectivity, economy and community. Agamben’s The End of the Poem is read here as containing early elements of a mode of resistance that informs the new paradigms for human life and practice developed in his The Kingdom and the Glory and The Highest Poverty, where the revolutionary potential of past cultures emerges fully.