Third Agents: Secret Protagonists of the Modern Imagination
Editor: Ian Cooper, Ekkehard Knörer and Bernhard Malkmus
Date Of Publication: Jun 2008
Third Agents: Secret Protagonists of the Modern Imagination brings together a varied and fascinating range of contributions to explore the role of third agents in the post-Enlightenment literary imagination, including modern narratives such as film. It centres on the figure of ‘the third’ – conceived imaginatively as a liminal agent transgressing social, cultural and spatio-temporal boundaries, and conceptually as the vital yet often problematic element in theories of discourse that seek to operate beyond binary codes of meaning. This figure is revealed to be a ‘secret protagonist’ of modernity, neglected by, and eluding the scope of, existing intellectual and literary histories. Contributors to this volume are drawn from diverse theoretical backgrounds, encompassing work in dialectics, psychoanalysis and systems theory. Through their focus on literature and media, they seek to understand how those conceptions of the third relate to imaginative figurations.
This volume offers the first comprehensive account of third agency in modern literature and its intellectual and imaginative pre-history. It provides an accessible combination of close readings and theoretical reflection, presenting figures who inhabit in-between territories such as the adventurer, the bastard, the priest, the angel, the adulterer, the poet and the outcast. These figures are read as protagonists in a genealogy of modernity that has not yet been written. The essays here also provide fascinating answers as to why these secret protagonists often became major figures in modern philosophy and literary theory, and give new insights into such writers as Benjamin, Barthes and Derrida.
Ian Cooper is a Research Fellow in German at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His main interests concern the relationship between poetry and philosophy in the aftermath of post-Kantianism, from 1800 to the present. He is the author of various articles, and his study The Near and Distant God: Poetry, Idealism and Religious Thought from Hölderlin to Eliot is forthcoming with Legenda.
Ekkehard Knörer is a scholar of film and literature. He wrote his doctoral thesis on wit and ingenium in 17th and 18th century poetics and aesthetics, and has published articles mainly on film, most recently on Tod Browning and on Robert Bresson’s aesthetics of transubstantiation. He is currently working on a book-length study of copies and remakes in film, literature and the arts. He lives in Berlin.
Bernhard Malkmus is Assistant Professor of German at The Ohio State University. He works on the picaresque novel and colonial diaries and travelogues. He has published on W.G. Sebald, Alexander Kluge, intermediality, ecocriticism, and the picaresque narrative structure.
‘“There is nothing as important as the interference of a third party.” This statement from Goethe’s novel Elective Affinities contradicts the influential tertium non datur of Aristotelian logic. The lucid contributions to this volume aim at nothing less than deciding who is right – Aristotle, Goethe, or perhaps even a third agent. They clearly deserve the attention of more than three readers.’
Jochen Hörisch, Professor of German and Media Studies, Mannheim University
‘The “figure of the third” has proved to be an exciting motivic and conceptual framework for cultural exploration, a device for probing beyond traditional binary investigative systems and therefore for uncovering paradigms and constellations in intellectual and literary history that such systems themselves tend systematically to conceal […] This volume seems to me to be building on important existing research but simultaneously to be pushing it forward in new ways, particularly as regards the interfaces of theory with pragmatic literary and cultural criticism.’
Robert Vilain, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London
"...this genuinely interdisciplinary study is often stimulating and always worthwhile. It represents the first comprehensive account of this topical paradigmand could itself be said to represent a 'third realm' between literature on the one hand and philosophy and theory on the other which will doubtless be of interest to a large number of readers."
Jane Walling, University of Durham, Modern Language Review, Volume 105, Part 1, Jan 2010
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