Give the Word

Give the Word

Responses to Werner Hamacher's "95 Theses on Philology"

Edited by Gerhard Richter and Ann Smock

Stages Series

444 pages
1 table, 8 indexes


June 2019


$75.00 Pre-order

About the Book

Werner Hamacher’s witty and elliptical 95 Theses on Philology challenges the humanities—and particularly academic philology—that assume language to be a given entity rather than an event. In Give the Word eleven scholars of literature and philosophy (including Susan Bernstein, Michèle Cohen-Halimi, Peter Fenves, Sean Gurd, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Jan Plug, Gerhard Richter, Avital Ronell, Thomas Schestag, Ann Smock, and Vincent van Gerven Oei) take up the challenge presented by Hamacher’s theses. At the close Hamacher responds to them in a spirited text that elaborates on the context of his 95 Theses and its rich theoretical and philosophical ramifications.

The 95 Theses, included in this volume, makes this collection a rich resource for the study and practice of “radical philology.” Hamacher’s philology interrupts and transforms, parting with tradition precisely in order to remain faithful to its radical but increasingly occluded core.

The contributors test Hamacher’s break with philology in a variety of ways, attempting a philological practice that does not take language as an object of knowledge, study, or even love. Thus, in responding to Hamacher’s Theses, the authors approach language that, because it can never be an object of any kind, awakens an unfamiliar desire. Taken together these essays problematize philological ontology in a movement toward radical reconceptualizations of labor, action, and historical time.

Author Bio

Gerhard Richter is a professor of German studies and comparative literature at Brown University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Inheriting Walter Benjamin and Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics. Ann Smock is a professor emerita of French at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of two books, including What Is There to Say? (Nebraska, 2003), and has translated several books. An influential theorist, philosopher, and literary critic, Werner Hamacher (1948–2017) was a professor at the University of Frankfurt and founder of its Institute of General and Comparative Literary Studies.


“Werner Hamacher’s 95 Theses on Philology proposes a new radical understanding of philology, distinct from its dusty nineteenth-century conception. The eleven responses to his 95 Theses have provided him with an opportunity to comment extensively and in generous detail on the responses they provoked. Hamacher’s lengthy contribution is not only an extraordinary document of scholarly debate but also a superb piece in which he elaborates on the context of his Theses and, on their rich theoretical and philosophical ramifications, thus also providing insight into the workings of his own thought.”—Rodolphe Gasché, Distinguished Professor and Eugenio Donato Chair of Comparative Literature, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York

Table of Contents

95 Theses on Philology / 95 Thesen zur Philologie
     Werner Hamacher
     Gerhard Richter and Ann Smock
1. “Was heisst Lesen? — What Is Called Reading?”
            Gerhard Richter
2. “Language-Such-That-It's-Spoken”
Michèle Cohen-Halimi
3. “48: [this space intentionally left blank]”
Jan Plug
4. “Catch a Wave: Sound, Poetry, Philology”
Sean Gurd
5. “‘Einmal ist Keinmal’: On the 76th of Werner Hamacher’s 95 Theses for Philology”
Ann Smock
6. “Rereading tempus fugit
Thomas Schestag
7. “Language on Pause: Hamacher's Seconds of Celan and Daive”
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
8. “The Right Not to Complain: A Philology of Kinship”
Avital Ronell
9. “The Category of Philology”
Peter Fenves
10. “The Philía of Philology”
Susan Bernstein
11. “Defining the Indefinite”
Daniel Heller-Roazen
Responding to Responses
12. “What Remains to Be Said: Of Twelve and More Ways of Looking at Philology”
Werner Hamacher

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