Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson

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9780801473005: Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson

"In recent years, we have grown accustomed to philosophical language that is intensely self-conscious and rhetorically thick, often tragic in tone. It is enlivening to read Bergson, who exerts so little rhetorical pressure while exacting such a substantial effort of thought. . . . Bergson's texts teach the reader to let go of entrenched intellectual habits and to begin to think differently―to think in time. . . . Too much and too little have been said about Bergson. Too much, because of the various appropriations of his thought. Too little, because the work itself has not been carefully studied in recent decades."―from Thinking in TimeHenri Bergson (1859–1941), whose philosophical works emphasized motion, time, and change, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927. His work remains influential, particularly in the realms of philosophy, cultural studies, and new media studies. In Thinking in Time, Suzanne Guerlac provides readers with the conceptual and contextual tools necessary for informed appreciation of Bergson's work. Guerlac's straightforward philosophical expositions of two Bergson texts, Time and Free Will (1888) and Matter and Memory (1896), focus on the notions of duration and memory―concepts that are central to the philosopher's work. Thinking in Time makes plain that it is well worth learning how to read Bergson effectively: his era and our own share important concerns. Bergson's insistence on the opposition between the automatic and the voluntary and his engagement with the notions of "the living," affect, and embodiment are especially germane to discussions of electronic culture.

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"Recent years have seen a serious and significant renaissance of interest in Henri Bergson, a key intellectual figure of the first half of the twentieth century. Bergson offers new possibilities for thinking today, and interest in his work is now widespread, being felt across the humanities and social sciences, and even in the sciences. Thinking in Time offers the only reader's guide I know in English to Bergson's two key texts, books that should be placed at the center of a young person's university education and form a key part of the scholar's learning and education. Suzanne Guerlac's style of writing is admirably lucid and succeeds in genuinely instructing the reader in the key ideas and movements of thought at work in Bergson's texts."—Keith Ansell Pearson, University of Warwick, author of Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life

"Thinking in Time is not only a 'reader's guide' or introduction to Bergson's first major books; it also puts the general philosophy of Bergson in a double historical perspective—the historical context of its writing (then) and the present context of its rediscovery (now). Suzanne Guerlac displays two very different sets of qualities: a minute attention to the texts and a broader capacity to set the frames of a general history of ideas between the turn of the century and the most contemporary poststructural or 'postcontinental' philosophy."—Frédéric Worms, Université Charles-de-Gaulle-Lille 3, author of Bergson ou les deux sens de la vie

"Thinking in Time may well become the most widely read book in film studies. Although it was not written specifically for the field, it provides a crucial background for film theory, particularly for the work of Gilles Deleuze. But perhaps more importantly, it elucidates to a remarkable degree the qualities of the medium that fascinate scholars and students of modernism and postmodernism. Suzanne Guerlac’s book greatly enriches the context in which the cinema arose by elucidating the complex currents of thought at the turn of the century that gave rise to both Henri Bergson’s ideas and the new art form. The correlations between the challenges facing Bergson, due to his rejection of orderly spatial metaphors in favor of a radical concept of time, and those confronting the new time-based medium provide a new context for the consideration of early film history. In a book that will appeal particularly to students of film theory, experimental or modernist film, and the especially cinematic genres of the musical or science fiction, Guerlac conveys her crystal-clear grasp of Bergson’s thought with unsurpassed wisdom and passion."—Robin Blaetz, Mount Holyoke College

About the Author:

Suzanne Guerlac is Professor of French at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Literary Polemics: Bataille, Sartre, Valéry, Breton, cowinner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies given by the Modern Language Association, and The Impersonal Sublime: Hugo, Baudelaire, Lautréamont, and the Esthetics of the Sublime.

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