AfternessFigures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics

AfternessFigures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics

Gerhard Richter

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780231157704

Publisher: Columbia University Press


This book argues that the concept of “afterness” is a key figure in the thought and aesthetics of modernity. It pursues questions such as: What does it mean for something to “follow” something else? Does that which follows mark a clear break with what came before it, or does it in fact tacitly perpetuate its predecessor as a consequence of its inevitable indebtedness to the terms and conditions of that from which it claims to have departed? Indeed, is not the very act of breaking with, and then following upon, a way of retroactively constructing and fortifying that from which the break that set the movement of following into motion had occurred? The book explores the concept and movement of afterness as a privileged yet uncanny category through close readings of writers such as Immanuel Kant, Franz Kafka, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jacques Derrida. It shows how the vexed concepts of afterness, following, and coming after shed new light on a constellation of modern preoccupations, including personal and cultural memory, translation, photography, hope, and the historical and conceptual specificity of what has been termed “after Auschwitz.” The book’s various analyses illuminate Lyotard’s apodictic statement that “after philosophy comes philosophy. But it has been altered by the after.” The book demonstrates, that much hinges on our interpretation of the “after”.