On Novelty

By Kristina Mendicino

Subjects: Literary Theory, Political Theory, Philosophy, Literary Criticism, Philosophy Of Literature
Series: SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory
Hardcover : 9781438477558, 270 pages, January 2020
Paperback : 9781438477541, 270 pages, January 2021

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Table of contents


Introduction: Making and Breaking the News

1. As If Zarathustra Spoke: On the Chances of Nietzsche’s Good News

2. Passing the End: Baudelaire’s New Findings

3. Announcing a Stellar Possibility: Blanqui’s Cosmological Hypothesis

4. Atomizing the Communist Manifesto

Afterword: On Annovation

Works Cited

A study of novelty through analyses of the language of announcement in revolutionary texts.


Walter Benjamin claimed that the notion of novelty took on unprecedented importance with the growth of high capitalism in the nineteenth century. In this book, Kristina Mendicino analyzes a selection of canonical texts that reflect profound concern with novelty and its apparent contrary, the eternal return of the same, including Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Baudelaire's lyric and prose poetry, and Marx and Engels's Communist Manifesto. She also addresses Eternity by the Stars by Louis-Auguste Blanqui, who is less well known and often underestimated in considerations of his significance for revolutionary political theory.

Mendicino argues that the notion of a novum cannot be understood without attentiveness to the language of announcement, not least of all because the "new" has always been associated with a particular mode of linguistic performance. Through close readings of emphatically annunciatory texts, she demonstrates how the extreme possibilities of expression that they present through specific citational and rhetorical praxes render the language of announcement overdetermined and anachronistic in ways that exceed any systematic account of historical time and experience. This excess in and through language is precisely what opens hitherto unheard of alternatives for conceiving of historical temporality and political possibility.

Kristina Mendicino is Associate Professor of German Studies at Brown University and author of Prophecies of Language: The Confusion of Tongues in German Romanticism.


"[The book's] scope is impressive, its style elegant. It is challenging yet ultimately rewarding." — CHOICE

"Impressive in scope and philosophically sophisticated, this erudite and elegantly written book is, quite simply, dazzling. Mendicino successfully tears down many of the tired clichés that too often subtend discussions about novelty and modernism and makes persuasive arguments for her own novel claims about why the appeal to novelty matters so much. In her capable hands, the question of novelty becomes a lever with which she powerfully pries open familiar texts, philosophical traditions, and concepts and transforms those recognizable topoi into resources for thinking differently about historical time, revolution, capital, wealth, theory, and practice." — Elissa Marder, author of Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert)