Modern theory needs a history lesson. Neither Marx nor Nietzsche first gave us theory—Hegel did. We invite you to come hear Andrew Cole’s clear and lively account of the origins and legacy of Hegel’s dialectic as theory and Eduardo Cadava’s comments and questions.
Cole explains how Hegel boldly broke from modern philosophy when he adopted medieval dialectical habits of thought to fashion his own dialectic. While his contemporaries rejected pre-modern dialectic as outdated dogma, Hegel embraced both its emphasis on language as thought and its fascination with the categories of identity and difference, creating what we now recognize as theory, distinct from systematic philosophy. Not content merely to change philosophy, Hegel also used this dialectic to expose the persistent archaism of modern life itself, Cole shows, establishing a method of social analysis that has influenced everyone from Marx and the nineteenth-century Hegelians, to Nietzsche and Bakhtin, all the way to Deleuze and Jameson.
Andrew Cole is English Professor at Princeton University. He is the author of Literature and Heresy in the Age of Chaucer and coeditor of The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory. Eduardo Cadava is also Professor in Princeton’s English Department. He is the author of Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History, and Emerson and the Climates of History, as well as coeditor of Who Comes After the Subject? and of Cities Without Citizens, among others.