On Tarrying

Joseph Vogl

Translated by Helmut Muller-Sievers


4.25 x 7 inches, 208pp. December 2011

ISBN : 9781906497989

Rs  425.00 (HB)
$19.00 (HB)
£12.00 (HB)

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Western culture has been marked by deep divisions between action and contemplation, intervention and passivity, and decisiveness and withdrawal. Conceived as radical opposites, these terms structure the history of religion, philosophy and political theory, and have left their imprint on the most intimate processes of individual decision-making and geopolitical strategies of the post-9/11 era. In On Tarrying, Joseph Vogl argues for a third way, a mode of thought that doesn’t insist on these divisive either/ors. Neither an active refusal to engage with the world nor a consistent strategy of resistance, tarrying, as defined by Vogl, defers, multiplies, suspends and aestheticizes the strictures of decision-making.


In his far-ranging reflections, Vogl shows that the traditional insistence on the exclusivity of these terms impoverishes and distorts the range of human responses to a world full of possibilities. His readings of texts by Sigmund Freud, Sophocles, Friedrich Schiller, Robert Musil and Franz Kafka, along with major theological and philosophical treatises on the ontology of the will, provide rich examples of how to resist the binary of activity and passivity through tarrying. This important book offers the first-ever extended analysis of tarrying as a mode of subversion and presents provocative new readings and interpretations of significant works of German literature and thought.

Joseph Vogl is a professor of Modern German Literature, Cultural Studies and Media at the Humboldt University in Berlin and is currently a visiting professor of German at Princeton University. His books include Place of Violence: Kafka’s Literary Ethics (1990) and Law and Judgement: Contributions to a Theory of Politics (2004). 


Helmut Müller-Sievers is the Eaton Professor of Humanities and Arts and the Director of the Center for the Humanities and Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His work concerns the intersection of literature, science and engineering. His other books include The Cylinder: Kinematics of the 19th Century (2011).

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