Richter, Give the Word
Werner Hamacher’s witty and elliptical 95 Theses on Philology challenges the humanities—and particularly academic philology—that assume language to be a given entity rather than an event. In Give the Word eleven scholars of literature and philosophy (Susan Bernstein, Michèle Cohen-Halimi, Peter Fenves, Sean Gurd, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Jan Plug, Gerhard Richter, Avital Ronell, Thomas Schestag, Ann Smock, and Vincent van Gerven Oei) take up the challenge presented by Hamacher’s theses. At the close Hamacher responds to them in a spirited text that elaborates on the context of his 95 Theses and its rich theoretical and philosophical ramifications.
The 95 Theses, included in this volume, makes this collection a rich resource for the study and practice of “radical philology.” Hamacher’s philology interrupts and transforms, parting with tradition precisely in order to remain faithful to its radical but increasingly occluded core.
The contributors test Hamacher’s break with philology in a variety of ways, attempting a philological practice that does not take language as an object of knowledge, study, or even love. Thus, in responding to Hamacher’s Theses, the authors approach language that, because it can never be an object of any kind, awakens an unfamiliar desire. Taken together these essays problematize philological ontology in a movement toward radical reconceptualizations of labor, action, and historical time.