Darkness and Its Discontents

Saturday, March 14, 10am-2pm, Philadelphia

Back by unpopular demand!
Can darkness be…illuminating?


“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

Why does Nietzsche—Nietzsche of all people!—feel compelled to add such saccharine assurance at the end? Roses? If I know anything about cypress trees, it is that there are no roses under them. There is only more darkness. What’s up here?

In her essay “Action and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Hannah Arendt comments on the deep imprint of affirmation and positivity on “the American frame of mind.” Indeed, this tendency, as she points out, is a guiding principle of America’s founding documents, wherein “the pursuit of happiness” is enshrined as an inalienable human right. Never mind that everywhere, now as then, insecurity, strife, and oppression are the order of the day; still, we all possess that peculiar American privilege of “pursuing a phantom and embracing a delusion.” Even Walt Whitman, our poet of joyous celebration must, in the end, wonder, “What is happiness, anyhow?…so impalpable—a mere breath, an evanescent tinge.”

Unlike many others, it is a “tinge” that is at least fostered by our dominant national ideology. What about the tinge of darkness that we all must surely experience? Call it unease, anxiety, nausea, existential angst, sadness, depression, everyday anguish, non-specific mourning, or something else, it is anathema to our collective identity and barred from serious, non-pathologized, discourse.

In this seminar, we will journey together into the (conceptual and imaginative) night of dark trees, and peek beneath those cypresses. Our guides will include Julie Reshe on depressive realism; Eugene Thacker on the “color” black; Chaim Wigder on revolutionary pathology; Martin Heidegger on anxiety; Mark Fisher on systemic depression; François Laruelle on the dark universe; and Barbara Ehrenreich on the tyranny of positivity. Good fun, huh!? Our challenge will be to avoid the traps of gothic romanticism (“woe is me!”) and scientific realism (“the universe is absolute nothingness–all the way down!”).

Vigorously on the path to a hardy, full-bodied and generously anti-humanist darkness, what might we behold?

FacilitatorGlenn Wallis has a Ph.D. in Nothingness Studies from The Dark Meaning Institute

Information and Registration


Rigorous & Rebellious Learning

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