Forthcoming: Critical Excess (Colin Davis)


Forthcoming (in April) from Stanford University Press, a new book by Colin Davis (French, Royal Holloway, University of London) entitled Critical Excess: Overreading in Derrida, Deleuze, Levinas, Zizek, and Cavell.

Here is the publisher’s description of the book:

The “ancient quarrel” between philosophy and literature seems to have been resolved once and for all with the recognition that philosophy and the arts may be allies instead of enemies. Critical Excess examines in detail the work of five thinkers who have had a huge, ongoing impact on the study of literature and film: Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Emmanuel Levinas, Slavoj Žižek, and Stanley Cavell. Their approaches are very different from one another, but they each make unexpected interpretive leaps that render their readings exhilarating and unnerving.

But do they go too far? Does a scribbled note left behind by Nietzsche really tell us about the nature of textuality? Can Hitchcock truly tell you “everything you always wanted to know about Lacan”? Does the blanket hung up in a motel room invoke the Kantian divide between the knowable phenomenal world and the unknowable things in themselves? Contextualizing the work of the five thinkers in the intellectual debates to which they contribute, this book analyzes the stakes and advantages of “overreading.”

And here are two endorsements:

“This is a book about how certain philosophers read works of literature and film, and whether literature and film become or can be shown to be themselves philosophical in virtue of this reading. But what sort of reading? The figures under study here—Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Emmanuel Levinas, Slavoj Žižek, and Stanley Cavell—approach (‘attack’ might be a better word) literature and film in ways that we lack concepts to describe, and they do not hesitate to call their ways of reading (not to mention what they read) ‘philosophy.’ ‘Overreading’ is Colin Davis’s covering term for how these philosophers work on their texts, but no one of them is like any of the others, so their ways of reading are to that extent untheorizable. Instead of large concepts Davis gives us close readings of their readings of particular texts or films—this against the background of lucid and accurate accounts of their particular philosophical or theoretical orientations. This is a fine and timely piece of work, and beautifully written in the bargain.” —Gerald Bruns, University of Notre Dame

“A superb book, at once lucid and passionate, arguing the case for the wise folly of willful, outrageous, and unconventional critical thinking, thanks to which we might learn new and valuable things about the world we live in. Davis is a friendly, learned, and judicious guide, and his commitment to the ethical possibilities of adventurous critical thought is nothing short of inspirational. Read!, he exhorts us, Watch!, and Think!—who knows what you might find out?”—Martin Crowley, Cambridge University