Hannah Arendt

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Twenty-five years after her death, we are still coming to terms with the controversial figure of Hannah Arendt. Interlacing the life and work of this seminal twentieth-century philosopher, Julia Kristeva provides us with an elegant, sophisticated biography brimming with historical and philosophical insight. Centering on the theme of female genius, Hannah Arendt emphasizes three features of the philosopher's work. First, by exploring Arendt's critique of Saint Augustine and her biographical essay on Rahel Varnhagen, Kristeva accentuates Arendt's commitment to recounting lives and narration. Second, Kristeva reflects on Arendt's perspective on Judaism, anti-Semitism, and the "banality of evil." Finally, the biography assesses Arendt's intellectual journey, placing her enthusiasm for observing both social phenomena and political events in the context of her personal life. Drawing on fragments of Arendt's most intimate correspondence with her longtime lover Martin Heidegger and her husband Heinrich Blucher, excerpts from her mother's "Unser Kind" (a diary tracking Hannah's formative years), and passages from Arendt's philosophical writings, Kristeva presents a luminous story. With a thorough thematic index and bibliographical references, Hannah Arendt is a major breakthrough in the understanding of an essential thinker.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 160.5 x 236.7 x 25.4mm | 676.8g
  • Columbia University Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0231121024
  • 9780231121026

Review quote

The portrait that emerges is quirky, intentionally subjective, and finely detailed. Kirkus Reviews An elegant, sophisticated biography replete with powerful psychoanalytic insight. Political Theory.Orgshow more

About Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva is an internationally known psychoanalyst and critic and is professor of linguistics at the University of Paris VII. She is the co-author of The Feminine and the Sacred, and author of many other highly regarded books, including Melanie Klein, Strangers to Ourselves, New Maladies of the Soul, Time and Sense, and The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt all published by Columbia.Ross Guberman is the translator of Julia Kristeva's New Maladies of theSoul and Time and Sense, and editor of Julia Kristeva Interviews.show more

Table of contents

BibliographyNotesFemale Genius: General IntroductionA Biography "So Exposed"Chapter 1: Life as a NarrativeLove According to Saint AugustineChapter 2: Superfluous HumanityThe Meaning of an Example: Rahel VarnhagenChapter 3: Thinking, Willing, and JudgingArendt and Aristotle: A Defense of NarrationThe Tale of the Twentieth CenturyTo Be JewishAmong the Elements in the StructureThe Example of FranceWhat Is Modern Anti-Semitism?Imperialism... and TotalitarianismThe Banality of EvilFaith and Revolution... in Society, That Sanctified HearthThe "Who" and the BodyThe Dialogue of the Thinking Ego: The "Split," Melancholy, TyrannyFrom the Interior Man to the Violence of the Life ProcessThe Taste of the Spectator: Toward a Political PhilosophyJudgment: Between Forgiveness and Promiseshow more

Review Text

Intellectual all-star Kristeva ("Possessions", 1998) offers this study of Arendt as the first installment of her new trilogy on female genius (the next two will deal with Melanie Klein and Colette). Kristeva begins provocatively, questioning the very existence of the female genius and purposefully leaving the question unanswered. Her stance is doubly provocative in relation to Arendt, who would seem to qualify as a genius by anyone's standards. Born in Linden, Germany, in 1906, Arendt was an intellectual prodigy who quarreled with her schoolteachers so relentlessly that she was eventually expelled for insubordination. This bad start notwithstanding, she went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg and became the protege (and lover) of the influential philosopher Martin Heidegger. She first emerged as a major figure in philosophy and intellectual life with the 1951 publication of "The Origins of Totalitarianism", a monumental work that argued against humanity's own absurdity (in response to the cultural degradation of fascism, communism, and WWII) and offered a critique of the prevailing school of existentialism. But this is not a biography; Kristeva's portrait takes the form of an intellectual dialogue between Arendt and herself. She integrates a full range of Arendt's philosophical work into her study, and includes many texts that illuminate aspects of Arendt's private life (including her correspondence with Heidegger and husband Herman Clucher, and extracts from the diary of Arendt's mother). The portrait that emerges is quirky, intentionally subjective, and finely detailed. Not a volume to be picked up lightly, unless you enjoy tussling with sentences heavily laden with philosophical jargon and esoterica-but Kristeva fans are a diehard and hardy bunch, and they'll find plenty to be excited about here. (Kirkus Reviews)show more