Auden's O

The Loss of One's Sovereignty in the Making of Nothing

By Andrew W. Hass

Subjects: Religion, Literature, Philosophy, Theology, Postmodernism
Paperback : 9781438448329, 344 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781438448312, 344 pages, November 2013

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Table of contents

"Nothing will come of nothing"
Auden's Circumlocution
0. Introduction
Giotto's O
The Binary
The Binary Code
The Binary Code Cracked
The Paradigm
The Paradigm Shift
The Paradigm Rift
The Modern
The Modern Crisis
Part One: From Religion and Philosophy to Artiface
1.   The Sovereignty of One
One's Punch Line
From the Many, One: The Hebrews
The Nature of One: The Presocratics
The Metaphysics of One: Plato, Aristotle
The Wholly, Plenary One: Plotinus
The Christian One: Paul
The Paradigms of One
One's Retreat
2. The Revolutions of O
The Romeo Effect
Zero and its History
Ground Zero
The Artificer's Circle
The Hermeneutical Circle
I The Author's O
Eternal Recurrence
Part Two: Poesis' Figure — The Making of O
3. Shakespeare's Eye of the Storm
Lear's Tragic O
Shakespeare's Specular O
Caliban's Negating O
4. Reflections of Auden
W. H. Auden
The Sea and the Mirror
5. The Empty Middle
Originating O (Blanchot)
Historicizing O
Alternate Os of the Middle
The O of Auden
The Erotics of O
Simone de Beauvoir
Part III: Looking After O
6. The Remaking of Philosophy and Religion
Philosophy and Religion: Inside the Perimeter
Negation's Triumvirate: Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger
Before the Postmodern: Sartre
Through the Postmodern: Derrida, Irigaray
Out of the Postmodern: Badiou
gOd—Postmortem Theology
7. The Future of O?
Auden's Brecht
The Parabolic Within
Pontius Pilate in the Creed
The Other Rogue
The Rogue Within
Another Epicycle
The Truest O is the Most Feigning
"Signifying Nothing"
Bibliography of Cited Works

Explores the rise of the idea of nothing in Western modernity and how its figuration is transforming and offering new possibilities.


Finalist for the 2014 American Academy of Religion Book Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, in the Constructive-Reflective category

In this groundbreaking, interdisciplinary history of ideas, Andrew W. Hass explores the ascendency of the concept of nothing into late modernity. He argues that the rise of the reality of nothing in religion, philosophy, and literature has taken place only against the decline of the concept of One: a shift from a sovereign understanding of the One (unity, universality) toward the "figure of the O"—a cipher figure that, as nonentity, is nevertheless determinant of other realities. The figuring of this O culminates in a proliferation of literary expressions of nothingness, void, and absence from 1940 to 1960, but by century's end, this movement has shifted from linear progression to mutation, whereby religion, theology, philosophy, literature, and other critical modes of thought, such as feminism, merge into a shared, circular activity. The writer W. H. Auden lends his name to this O, his long poetic work The Sea and the Mirror an exemplary manifestation of its implications. Hass examines this work, along with that of a host of writers, philosophers, and theologians, to trace the revolutionary hermeneutics and creative space of the O, and to provide the reasoning of why nothing is now such a powerful force in the imagination of the twenty-first century, and of how it might move us through and beyond our turbulent times.

Andrew W. Hass is Reader in Critical Religion at the University of Stirling in Scotland. He is the author of Poetics of Critique: The Interdisciplinarity of Textuality and the coeditor (with David Jasper and Elisabeth Jay) of The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology.


"The core of the book is Hass on The Tempest and, especially, on Auden's relaunching of it in The Sea and the Mirror. Any admirer of Auden's long poem … will find much nourishment here, from comments on individual lyrics to reflections on the achievement of the whole. " — Literature and Theology