Faculty Writing: On Alexandre Kojève Reading Hegel, and Bret Easton Ellis Writing Bret Easton Ellis
Writing for Aeon magazine, Samantha Hill asks how it was that Alexandre Kojève—an obscure Russian-born aristocrat pauperized by the stock market crash of 1929, who would later go on to become an early architect of the European Union—“came to influence a generation of thinkers,” from Georges Bataille to André Breton, Jacques Lacan, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, Emmanuel Levinas, and others. “The opacity of Hegel’s Phenomenology avails itself to promiscuous interpretation,” Hill argues with respect to Kojève’s now famous lectures at the École Pratique des Hautes Études between 1933 and 1939, “but no reading has been so seductive” as his, since what he placed front and center was desire.
And, writing in the New York Review of Books, Christine Smallwood surveys the career of novelist Bret Easton Ellis and finds his “stark and unsentimental moral vision” is not only “blind to half of human truth”—that “love, compassion, and faithfulness” are the other side of violence, power, and depravity—but largely blind to himself. With reference to his latest novel The Shards, a book that plays perilously with Ellis’s own biography, she writes: “The book’s violent deaths may be nothing more than the fantasies of a middle-aged writer searching for an image that can express the shock and horror of his own mortality.”