Provocative, inventive, and at times outrageous essays on literary theory, philosophy, and cultural criticism.
These provocative, inventive, and at times outrageous essays on literary theory, philosophy, and cultural criticism describe, in their form and content, the end of criticism, even while performing the endlessness of that endgame. In a sense, the book deconstructs all forms of critique and criticism, including deconstruction, and including its own self. That the book is so painfully aware of the futility of its own enterprise, even while pursuing it relentlessly and with such critical rigor, is what makes this a book of masocriticism as well as about masocriticism.
Paul Mann is the author of The Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde.
"This is a frightening and beautiful book. It is hugely learned, encompassing (in both its references and its style) the high and popular literatures and philosophical texts of the eighteenth century through the present day, as well as texts and themes in classical thought, ethics, and politics. It is razor sharp in its analytic moves; nothing loose or speculative about its presentation, no argument by metaphor, juxtaposition, implication, or innuendo. Because its mastery is so sustained and impersonal—in a sense, so disinterested—we submit to it in an access of textual pleasure, or jouissance. Sometimes, the scholarly exposition is so deadpan, so perfect in its observation of convention, as to make you suspect that Mann is having you on: John Cleese doing genealogy of morals. It is elegant, in the manner of a scientific experiment, showing strict economy in its premises and an exhaustive sampling of the data. Everyone interested in the situation of critique must read this book. In the critical commentaries and theory-studies of today, it has no counterpart." — Marjorie Levinson, University of Michigan
"Masocriticism portrays the cruel mockery self-consciousness makes of its denizens, and faces up to what Wittgenstein called 'the groundlessness of our believing' as consistently as any book I know. I heartily recommend it." — H. L. Hix, author of Spirits Hovering Over the Ashes
"This book is completely engaged with its materials—the conjunction of passion for its thesis with intellectual rigor makes it stand out within the literature. The mode of writing, where Mann is able to mix what at first seem to be 'oracular' pronouncements with close readings of key texts—such as Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy—makes for a pretty exhilarating read." — Sande Cohen, California Institute of the Arts