Affective Genealogies is an incisive contribution to the current reassessment of postmodern culture and theory. Elizabeth J. Bellamy examines how the Holocaust and Jews have been represented in a wide range of French poststructuralist works. Central to Bellamy’s study is her questioning of whether "the non-essentializing discourse of postmodernism [can] ever enable a genuine ‘working through’ to an understanding of the horror of the Holocaust." She concludes that much recent French thought "encrypts but does not fully confront the trauma of the Holocaust."
Bellamy begins by surveying contemporary writings on Judaism, the Holocaust, and the "crisis of memory." She then closely examines recent French debates about Martin Heidegger’s relationship to the Nazis, focusing on Jacques Derrida’s controversial defense of Heidegger’s works. Another chapter examines the works of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, noting the ambiguous ways in which they portray the roles played by Jews in modern intellectual history. The last chapter examines the representation of Judaism in Jean-François Lyotard’s writings.
Bellamy’s book contributes to the recent revaluation of French postmodernism and to current studies on the representation of Jews and the Holocaust in Western literature and thought. As Sander Gilman has noted, "the writers and works that were generated in France from Sartre to Lyotard have had a seminal role in shaping the international philosophical discourse about Jewish identity." Affective Genealogies is an essential guide to that controversial—and influential—philosophical movement.
Elizabeth J. Bellamy is an associate professor of English at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of Translations of Power: Narcissism and the Unconscious in Epic History.