Going beyond the Pairs

The Coincidence of Opposites in German Romanticism, Zen, and Deconstruction

By Dennis McCort

Subjects: Literary Theory
Paperback : 9780791450024, 234 pages, June 2001
Hardcover : 9780791450017, 234 pages, June 2001

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Table of contents



1. Figure: What Is German Romanticism (noch einmal), or The Limits of Scholarship

2. Merton's “Rilke,” Rilke's “Merton”: From an Unpublished Notebook

3. Killing Kafka Koans: West Meets East

4. Interface: Identity/Difference/Prestidigitation

5. East Meets West: Zen and Rilke in Salinger's Catcher

6. Without an Object, without a Subject: The Consciousness of Franklin Merrell-Wolff

7. Ground: German Romanticism, Zen, and Deconstruction



Works Cited


Argues that German Romanticism, Zen Buddhism, and deconstruction, for all their cultural differences, are three expressions of a universal vision.


In Going beyond the Pairs, Dennis McCort examines the theme of the coincidentia oppositorum—the tendency of a thing or relationship to turn, under certain conditions, into its own opposite—as it is expressed in German Romanticism, Zen Buddhism, and deconstruction. McCort argues that the coincidentia can be useful for understanding and comparing a variety of cultural forms, including systems of myth, religions ancient and modern, laws of social organization, speculative philosophies East and West, psychological theories and therapeutic practices, and dynamic organizing principles of music, art, and literature. The book touches on a variety of Western and Eastern writers and thinkers, including Thomas Merton, Jacques Derrida, Nishida Kitaro, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Franz Kafka, Novalis, Renzai Zen, J. D. Salinger, and the mysterious, doughnut-loving editor of the medieval Chinese koan collection, Mumonkan.

Dennis McCort is Associate Professor of German at Syracuse University and the author of States of Unconsciousness in Three Tales by C. F. Meyer and Perspectives on Music in German Fiction: The Music-Fiction of Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl.


"By going beyond the oppositionalism of nineteenth-century Romanticism and twentieth-century deconstruction, McCort compellingly demonstrates that these critical theories each indicate an implicit 'third,' a triangulation of signification, in the face of difference. The surprise in the argument is that the radical wisdom concerning this coincidence of opposites comes from Zen! It is an Asian logic that makes going beyond Occidental pairs experientially and intellectually possible. " — David Miller, author of Three Faces of God

"In addition to building surprising bridges between these seemingly disparate literary and philosophical systems, McCort offers a new reading of deconstruction that helps us find a way out of the cul de sac of much current critical theory. " — Harold Coward, author of Derrida and Indian Philosophy