From the beginning, the work of William V. Spanos has been characterized by a secular vocation, the confrontation with historical relations of power and subordination. His writings on American literature, contemporary humanities, and the Harvard Red Book, along with his critical understanding of imperial reason and his particular adaptation of Martin Heidegger’s destructive hermeneutics to the historical narrative informing humanism, the modern university, and the profession, are among his main contributions to contemporary criticism. Each of his interventions has been oriented to produce a visibility that discloses the set of metaphysical and material aspects related to contemporary intellectual practices, which makes it difficult to assign his work to any standard category (professional philosophy, postmodernism, poststructuralist criticism, etc.). In this essay, I present Spanos’s seminal work as a polemos. Indeed, more than the production of a corpus of historical or sociological knowledge, what defines his work is his radical confrontation with facticity, that is to say, with the quotidian determinations of being as historical agency. Polemos is a term crucial for Heidegger himself, already related to his particular Auseinandersetzung, and gains with Spanos historical precision and potentiality. The essay therefore reviews the oeuvre of Spanos, paying attention to its latest developments, his polemical reading of Edward Said’s secular criticism and Hannah Arendt’s problematization of the “Jewish question,” as a timely supplement to his destructive style. It is this ability to incorporate new critical approaches that makes Spanos relevant today and that will make his thought important in the future.
Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott; Spanos’s Polemos: An Oppositional Intellectual in the Age of Mundialización. boundary 2 1 February 2015; 42 (1): 67–85. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2828266
Download citation file: