The Fall 2014 version of my Modern Revolution course came out of the work of my dissertation, Broken: Thought-Images of Life in the State of Exception. The third chapter of that work, “Failure,” sketched out the outlines of a theory of modern failure. What can it mean to think modernism as failure?

While it certainly informs the work I have planned for Spring 2015, I think that class has a much broader focus.

I’m apprehensive about posting this chapter here. It was the least developed part of the book, and needed to be more fully fleshed out. The demands of teaching 400 students a semester for year on end pretty much put the brakes on any such effort, including finding a publisher for the work. I am posting the chapter here because, as we go through the semester together, students might find it of interest (despite the fact that, as a disembodied chapter, students will have no idea about the larger context of the book, which was an effort to think affect in Deleuze’s sense in relation to the state of exception in Benjamin and Agamben’s sense).

This course has also been informed by a great deal of subsequent work on the singularity of San Francisco modernism, and the study of pornography and modernity, carried out in relation to some of my other courses at SFSU. This (basically unfinished) chapter presents just a sketch of the rough contours of the course as well as earlier formulations of mine.

Modernism as Failure: Benjamin, Kafka, and Walser

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