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Roland Végső

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Department Head

I teach courses in literary and critical theory and twentieth-century literatures with a special emphasis on transnational modernism. Over the last two decades, my research has been driven by a set of interrelated theoretical questions as I explored a wide range of historical and cultural phenomena. While the pursuit of these fundamental questions has guided me through several related academic fields (modernist studies, comparative literature, American studies, Cold War studies, continental philosophy, and translation theory), the guiding light in these inquiries has always been the same concern with the political functions of literature amidst the permanent crises of modernity. I am currently in the process of exploring some new directions in my research as I have been doing more and more work in the fields of media philosophy and new media studies.

My first book, The Naked Communist (Fordham UP, 2012), explores the ways literature participated in the constitution of the global imaginaries of early-Cold War US mainstream culture in the 1950s. By dividing the globe into three separate “worlds,” this cultural imaginary tried to contain a historical crisis that, for the first time in the history of the West, threatened the entire globe with the real possibility of human extinction. I tried to demonstrate that in this historical context the idea of “modernism” was reconfigured to provide an ideological justification for a specific type of post-colonial imperialism whose long-term effects are still detectable today. The conclusions of this book set me on a broader research agenda that I am currently exploring in my current work.

My second monograph, Worldlessness After Heidegger (Edinburgh UP, 2020), examines the way the concept of “worldlessness” has emerged in 20th-century continental philosophy as the standard name for the epochal catastrophe that supposedly threatens us all with the loss of our humanity. According to this intellectual tradition, technological development, imperialism, globalization, the generalization of war-like conditions over the globe, and the looming threat of ecological disaster have created a historical situation in which humanity is simultaneously ever more technologically connected and is increasingly incapable of constructing a shared common “world.” This lost sense of a shared community, then, supposedly explains the rise of authoritarian political tendencies today. The book argues that some of the most influential intellectual innovations of the 20th century like phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction should be seen as fundamentally political responses to this historical situation and calls for affirmative definitions of “worldlessness.”

In addition to traditional forms of academic literary and cultural criticism, I am also deeply committed to editing and translation. I got involved with editing while I was still a graduate student at SUNY/Buffalo. I have always considered these opportunities to have been foundational experiences of my education as they showed me the force and necessity of creating intellectual communities around pressing contemporary questions. The book series, Provocations, that I co-edit with Marco Abel for the University of Nebraska Press was conceived in the same spirit as it publishes short polemical interventions into contemporary academic debates.

My theoretical interest in translation has always been rooted in the practice of translation, which has been my constant preoccupations for the entirety of my academic career. Since it is impossible to separate the theory from the actual experience of translation, over the years I have also specialized in the translation of continental philosophy and critical theory. I am the translator and co-translator of three books: Rodolphe Gasché’s Georges Bataille: Phenomenology and Phantasmatology (Stanford University Press, 2012), Peter Szendy’s All Ears: The Aesthetics of Espionage (Fordham University Press, 2017), and Fethi Benslama’s Thinking Revolution: Writings on Insubmission (co-translated with Nathan Gorelick, forthcoming from Bloomsbury).

Other publications


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