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Beyond Dialectics in Modern Literature, Science and Film

Michael Mack

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Introduces the figure of contamination as alternative to dialectics

This book enquires into the problem of various oppositions between pure entities such as nature and society, body and mind, science and the arts, subjectivity and objectivity. It examines how works of literature and cinema have contaminated constructions of the pure and the immune with their purported opposite. As an advanced critical introduction to the figure of contamination, the book makes explicit what so far has remained unarticulated − what has only been implied − within postmodern, poststructuralist and deconstructive theory.

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Introduction: Climate Change and the Contamination of the Anthropocene
1. Contaminating Psychology with Biology: Descartes, Spinoza, Freud, and Žižek
2. Contaminating the Visible with the Invisible: from Einstein via H. G. Wells to Hannah Arendt, Luhmann and Derrida
3. Contamination of Nature with Society: the collapse of natural order from Melville to Wells and Ellison
4. Contaminating Judgement with its Suspension: Guilt and Punishment in Walter Benjamin, Herman Melville & Henry James
5. Contaminating the Digital: Action & Perception in Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock
6. Contaminating the Sacred with the Profane: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Bio-politics
7. Contaminating Posthumanism.

About the Author

Michael Mack is Reader (Associate Professor and tenured Research Fellow) in English Studies and Medical Humanities at Durham University. He is the author of Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis: Challenging our Infatuation with Numbers (Bloomsbury, 2014), How Literature Changes the Way we Think (Continuum, 2012), Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity: the hidden Enlightenment of Diversity from Spinoza to Freud (Continuum, 2010), German Idealism and the Jew. The Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and Anthropology as Memory: Elias Canetti and Franz Baermann Steiner’s Responses to the Shoah (Niemeyer, 2001).


Contaminations may be considered a breakthrough, a successful attempt at bringing together the Sciences and the Arts, an impressive endeavour to trace the roots and transformation of the figure of contamination transcending the disciplinary, medial, temporal, generic and other boundaries. All this makes Contaminations a thought-provoking, and interdisciplinary study.

- dr hab. Olga Antsyferova, The Wellsian

Contaminations is a compelling read visiting a wide spectrum of literature, philosophy, and medical biology. It is set to establish the author as one of his generation’s most erudite and yet theoretically innovative voices. The book will command great interest among humanists with multi-disciplinary interests.

- University of Chicago, Professor emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Paul Mendes-Flohr

Mack is a remarkably interdisciplinary scholar who has an all too rare deep learning in philosophy, in literature and film and in contemporary thought and theory. The book is an extraordinary example of genuine interdisciplinarity with firm philosophical foundations from the revisions of the Cartesian and Hegelian roots.

- University of Glasgow, David Jasper

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