Sons who feel like they have fallen short of their father’s expectations can be very dangerous, such as Osama bin Laden, or exceptionally creative, like Franz Kafka, New York University Professor Avital Ronell posits in her new book, "Loser Sons: Politics and Authority" (University of Illinois Press, Feb. 27).
There are sons who grow up unhappily believing that no matter what they do, they cannot please their fathers. Often unable to shed their sense of lifelong failure, either they give up and suffer in a permanent sulk, or they try with all their might to prove they are worth something after all. To Ronell, these are the “loser sons,” a group of men who’ve played prominent roles in the course of world events.
In Loser Sons, Ronell draws on current philosophy, literary history, and political events to confront the grim fact that divested boys can become terrifying men and to show how ideologies of all sorts perpetuate the theme that while childhood represents innocence, adulthood entails responsible cruelty. She addresses the problems of authority, paternal fantasy, and childhood as they have been explored and, in some cases, exemplified by Franz Kafka, Goethe's Faust, Benjamin Franklin, Jean-François Lyotard, Hannah Arendt, Alexandre Kojève, and Immanuel Kant.
Ronell is University Professor of the Humanities and a professor of German, English, and comparative literature at NYU, where she codirects the Trauma and Violence Transdisciplinary Studies program. She is also Jacques Derrida Professor of Media and Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Ronell’s previous works include: Dictations: On Haunted Writing; The Telephone Book; Crack Wars; Finitude's Score; Stupidity; The Test Drive; and Fighting Theory.
For review copies, contact Michael Roux, University of Illinois Press, at 217.244.4689 or