The Aesthetics of Excess

By Allen S. Weiss

Subjects: Aesthetics
Series: SUNY series in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
Paperback : 9780791400531, 228 pages, July 1989
Hardcover : 9780791400524, 228 pages, July 1989

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Table of contents


I. Nietzsche Redivivus

1. Posession Trance and Dramatic Perversity
2. Impossible Sovereignty

II. Sadian Figures
3. A Logic of the Simulacrum
4. A New History of the Passions
5. Structures of Exchange, Acts of Transgression
6. Demented, Deoedipalized, Deconstructed

III. A Fine Madness

7. The Errant Text
8. L'Amour Fou, L'Amour Unique
9. The Other as Muse
10. Psychopompomania

IV. Cinematic Transgressions

11. Cartesian Simulacra
12. On the Art of Fascination
13. Frampton's Lemma, Zorn's Dilemma
14. Between the Signs of the Scorpion and the Sign of the Cross

Index of Names


This book investigates the reciprocal and often transgressive relations between rhetorical figures and libidinal activity. The works of Nietzsche, Artaud, Bataille, Klossowski, and Sade are reconsidered in light of the modernist and postmodernist problematics of simulacra, fascination, sublimation and desublimation, perversion, deconstruction, and libidinal economies.

Reading across the boundaries of philosophy, art history, comparative literature, film studies, and psychoanalytic theory, this work reveals the manner in which theoretical discourse is imbued with passional motivations, and, conversely, shows how the passions are structured according to logical and rhetorical figures. In offering specific rereadings of several key figures of our modernist tradition, this work helps identify the sources of the 'postmodern condition.' It thus provides a theoretical foundation for contemporary art and literary criticism—especially of those works to be found at the margins of our culture.

Allen S. Weiss is a writer, translator, and editor working in the fields of film studies, art history, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory. He is an editor of Art & Text, and recently co-edited Psychosis and Sexual Identity: Toward a Post-Analytic View of the Schreber Case, published by SUNY Press.


"I think the work is a major event in the American appropriation of European philosophical and aesthetic theory. It is active and creative rather than slavish and derivative. Most important of all, it is a book from which I learned something." — Bernard Flynn, Empire State College

"I especially admire its scope and erudition, its richness of allusion, reference, and quotation. It is rare to read a text that so intelligently weaves together material from so many disciplines." — David Michael Levin, Northwestern University