Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comps and then Figuring out my Thesis

Well, I have hit that moment where I really need to honestly think about what I am going to write about for my dissertation. For the preliminary stage it has centered on Karl Barth in conversation with_____________. Now the time for experimental or themed writings is over and now I have to really center on a subject and theme.

The easy part is that the paper in some shape or form is centered around Barth. What exactly can I bring that is new to Barth scholarship? Well, the plethora of themes that I have looked at in Barth are the following: history, humor, secularism, modernity, postmodernity, dialectic, the event, the other, ethics and politics (issues of violence and power are themes I still want to explore). The main conversation partner has been Zizek even though I have also tried my hand at Badiou, Deleuze, Derrida, Rose, Hegel and Ranciere.

So why have him in conversation with non-theologians? I believe that this type of conversation will take seriously the idea of Barth as a major public thinker of the twentieth century. I mean, nobody would blink if I thought of placing Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard or Heidegger in conversation with the above thinkers, yet it seems that no one really does that with Barth.

Two figures I really have not had the time to explore are Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. Considering that my project is moving toward a more theological-historical method I may enlist one of these figures as the main interlocutor for Barth.

I really enjoy Zizek and since he has had his hand at theology for some time he might be a worthy subject. Badiou and his math make him a hard person for me to really grasp and since it was Zizek's reading in the first place that got me interested then I am putting him to the side for now. I have got a clear message from good people within the Deleuze field that a project putting Deleuze with Barth is near impossible, so he joins Badiou off to the side.

I think Ranciere has potential but again I am way too new to his thought to dedicate another two to three years in exploring his corpus. Derrida has promise just because it has been done so there is precedent but my whole initial idea was to do a similar postmodern reading of Barth but instead of Derrida pick some other thinker.

So I have the rest of the year to figure this out along with preparing for comps and Fall teaching classes. I guess I should plan out my Barth readings along with some Zizek and perhaps a little Agamben.


  1. No one has compared Barth to Zizek before? How warm a reception does Hegel get in "postmodern" thought?

  2. Hegel is either hated or reinterpreted. Deleuze makes a point of being the anti-Hegel while Butler and others use him. Foucault once said one cannot escape Hegel even if one tries. Zizek comes after this and openly uses a chastened Hegel.

    No one has really done a straight up interpretation of Barth and Zizek, but what I see is that both somewhat work from a Hegelian paradigm and argue for more of a crisis theology (or atheology). In some sense, I would argue Zizek radicalizes this train of theology were Barth backs off into orthodoxy in his Church Dogmatics.