Untimely Beggar: Poverty and Power from Baudelaire to Benjamin

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9780816649518: Untimely Beggar: Poverty and Power from Baudelaire to Benjamin

This highly original book takes as its starting point a central question for nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and philosophy: how to represent the poor?

Covering the period from the publication of Les Fleurs du Mal in 1857 to the composition of Benjamin's final texts in the 1930s, Untimely Beggar investigates the coincidence of two modern literary and philosophical interests: representing the poor and representing potential. To take account of literature's relation to the poor, Patrick Greaney proposes the concept of impoverished writing, which withdraws from representing objects and registers the existence of power. By reducing itself to the indication of its own potential, by impoverishing itself, literary language attempts to engage and participate in the power of the poor.

This focus on impoverished language offers new perspectives on major French and German authors, including Marx, Nietzsche, Mallarmé, Rilke, and Brecht; and makes significant contributions to recent debates about power and potential in thinkers such as Agamben, Deleuze, Foucault, Hardt, and Negri. In doing so, Greaney offers significant insights into modernity's intense philosophical and literary interest in socioeconomic poverty.

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From the Back Cover:

Patrick Greaney offers strong and poignant readings that responsibly attend to the modern cast of destitution. Brilliant, unflinching, and calm, he opens a dossier on one of the most imposing dimensions of our modernity, combining a strong sensibility for the impoverishment of being with the gift for naming the ravages of world-historical insolvency. Avital Ronell

About the Author:

Patrick Greaney is associate professor of German studies and comparative literature at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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