The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Avital Ronell The ÜberReader: Selected Works of Avital Ronell (2007)


‘Born in Prague to Israeli diplomats, Avital Ronell’s cultural background appears quite diverse. The Jewish family moved from Prague to Tel Aviv to New York. After receiving a Bachelor or Arts from Middlebury College, Vermont, she went to Berlin to study at the Hermeneutics Institute under Jacob Taubes. She ultimately earned her Doctorate in German studies at Princeton University with a dissertation on Goethe, Kafka, and Hölderlin. She met Jacques Derrida in 1979, with whom she came to develop a friendship and later taught an annual seminar on Literature and Philosophy at New York University. In the 1980s, she translated the philosopher’s works and also worked together with Professor Hélène Cixous at Université Paris VIII. Deeply influenced by deconstructionism as both an academic and a performance artist, she was described by her editor Diane Davis as at once “a consummate scholar and an anti-scholar”. Avital Ronell subsequently taught at the University of California at Berkeley from 1984 to 1995. Since then a Professor of German, Comparative Literature and English at New York University, her areas of interest range from literature to philosophy (particularly deconstruction), psychoanalysis, feminism, technology and media, trauma and violence studies, and performance art. She retains strong ties with Europe, and famously worked with French philosophers François Noudelmann, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy. She also regularly teaches at the European Graduate School, in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where she holds the Jacques Derrida Chair of Media and Philosophy.

‘A bold and pioneering philosopher, she is considered one of America’s leading deconstructionists. According to Diane Davis, “it’s tempting to say that she does French theory American-style within a Germanic frame and marked by a Talmudic meticulousness”, which would prove quite an accurate depiction, if it were not for her acute sense of irony towards scholarly tradition. She strives to widen the scope of philosophy to yet unexplored areas, using ontology, phenomenology, metaphysics and ethics in order to elaborate on stupidity (in her eponymous essay), addiction (Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania), telephony (The Telephone-Book: Technology-Schizophrenia-Electric Speech), AIDS (Finitude Scores: Essays for the End of the Millenium) or the human compulsion towards testing and being put to the test (The Test-Drive).

‘Avital Ronell’s corpus offers stimulating perspective on what happens on the contemporary stage, as for instance when, in an interview with Anne Dufourmantelle, she comments on the way technology redefines the contour of the “post-human body”, or her reflection on the television screen (a prop that proliferates in performances today) and the concept of spectrality. If her works cannot be said to provide a philosophical framework to drama strictly speaking, they contribute to explode the traditional disciplinary borders and thus to redefine theatricality.

‘Avital Ronell turns performance philosophy into a performed philosophy. When she does not perform herself (as in the 2010 What was I thinking? lecture performance/play), she actually stages language in her texts, resorting to a creative, calligrammatic layout mixing texts, drawings and an original use of punctuation. In writings such as Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania or The Telephone Book, the textual matter becomes a visual performance, and even a score. Ronell thus dramatizes philosophy. In Stupidity, she combines biographical elements (such as her subjective experience of stupidity during a Tai Chi class in New York) with literary references to American and European authors and philosophers.

‘Avital Ronell is a unique philosopher who strives to enact philosophy and, as she words it herself, to “crack open the closural sovereignty of the Book”.’ — Julien Alliot



Avital Ronell @ goodreads
Martin Jay on Avital Ronell’s Fighting Theory
Podcast: Ground Report : New York to Monaco – by Avital Ronell
Authority : Avital Ronell
Book: Life Extreme: Eduardo Kac & Avital Ronell
Review: Hallucinogeneric Literature: Avital Ronell’s Narcoanalysis
A slowing 5: Attentive decentering
Stupidity for Everyone. In Praise of the Latest Book by Avital Ronell.
Avital Ronell : “Je veux faire mal aux textes”
Avital Ronell, or How to Transform Philosophy into an Artistic Performance?
Avital Ronell on the Philosophy of Movement
An Addictionary of Violence
Buy ‘The ÜberReader: Selected Works of Avital Ronell’



Avital Ronell: Nietzche Loves You

Avital Ronell on COVID-19, Death, Despair, and the Warrior Spirit

Roadkill: A Hyperbolic Exposure

Avital Ronell. “Lamentable”. 2018


Extras 2

‘Ariana Reines’ TELEPHONE (2009) is a theatrical triptych inspired by Avital Ronell’s The Telephone Book; an epic piece that, like Ronell’s book, operates like a switchboard, connecting people and places across time and space. In Act I, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson return to the stage, having first presented their history-changing invention to the public in theaters, vaudeville-style. In Part II, Miss St. (Jung’s notorious schizophrenic madwoman) takes over, suffering the slander of invisible telephones and telling the audience all about it. Part III is a succession of cell phone conversations in the dark between people who love each other. Together, the three parts add up to a tender yet ferociously poetic work that asks what it means to “take the call,” not knowing who or what will be on the other end.’ — The Foundry Theater






Avital Ronell & Jacques Derrida

Avital Ronell & Judith Butler

Avital Ronell & Jean Luc Nancy

Avital Ronell & Anne Dufourmantelle


Anne Dufourmantelle interviews Avital Ronell
from ‘Fighting Theory’



Avital Ronell The ÜberReader: Selected Works of Avital Ronell
University of Illinois Press

‘With courage and humor, Avital Ronell takes thinking and writing into wild and dangerous places. The ÜberReader introduces her groundbreaking work on drug rhetoric, technology’s fatal attractions, and the odd prestige of stupidity. The ÜberReader includes previously uncollected essays, selections from her books, and some of her most powerful public talks.

‘An extensive introduction by Diane Davis surveys and situates Ronell’s hard-hitting work, and recalls some of the most important critical responses it has provoked.’ — University of Illinois Press

‘Where does one find that mix of clear, quick, unexpected, spectacular, and precise readings other than in Ronell’s work? Her pages are singular. She brings us into contact with urgent, traumatic cultural moments at the same time that she makes the case for reading philosophy and literature. We are thrown into the world, but not without new resources, and for this we can only offer gratitude for the labor of reading she performs and incites. She is brilliant in the sense that she gives light without covering over what remains difficult and enigmatic. And if there is, always, inadvertent joy and surprise to be found in the turns she takes in her pages, so too is there a relentless and demanding care for words, an ethics of reading that takes us in a direction far from moralism. With Ronell, we never know precisely where we are going, but we are always willing to go. This is work that is exacting, demanding, affirmative, critical, hilarious, urgent.’ — Judith Butler





p.s. Hey. ** David, Hey. Jesus, big starry rock shows are expensive. I did not know that about Ripper = (not) two Joy Division guys. Very odd, that. Big today! ** Dominik, Hi!!!! Ha ha, then I will skip the newer Ru Paul stuff, not that I would’ve been tempted anyway. You know my tastes. Well, you can take a pretty solid guess anyway. Guys with small dicks are very underrated. Now, did you ghost your boss due to his hideous apparel requirement? Dressing up for Zoom? I like nerdy, but that’s a little too nerdy. Love being very happy because every rock, boulder, and pebble on earth is discovered to be a sentient prehistoric creature that’s been sleeping for millions of years and they all regain consciousness at the same moment and demand a cup coffee, G. ** Tosh Berman, Factory Records’ records had tasty faces for sure. What’s healthy in the grand scheme of things? I mean seriously. One thing about getting older is you realise health is relative. No? ** Bill, Dig, yeah. ‘Leda’, okay, I’ll hunt around. I don’t know Thirwell’s most most recent stuff, but he was making quite good records as recently as several years ago. Could be fun. Big and blowsy. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Yeah, thanks to Roger. One would love to think he’s out there peering into here from somewhere. Oh, I’m very interested to watch ‘Other, Like Me’. Let me/us know what you think once you’ve seen it please. ** T, I do know how it is. Yay for ‘starts’. I can imagine re: your closeness to the Factory stuff. Completely different, but I’m that way about Charles Bukowski. The French love him, but I grew up in LA where you couldn’t get away from him while he was alive. I like quince, I think. Are things better or more at peace with your landlady these days, it seems, I hope? I’ll take a day submerged in quince if I can also take a very long, hot shower in the latter portion. Actually, how about a day for you that’s like a long, hot shower. With a shower curtain, of course, when you’re out in public. xo. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. New Order still exists. They’re about to tour the US on a double bill with Pet Shop Boys, I think. But their creative heyday is long since past. I don’t know who Colton Haynes ism, but I’ll find out. I thought ‘Memoria’ was far, far from a masterpiece and was extremely disappointing. And Swinton’s performance in it is one of the big reasons why. ** ian, Hi, ian! I’m pretty good, you? I don’t know the logistics, etc., of being a carpenter, but I can imagine that winter and carpentry are not best friends? But winter and writing can be total besties, and that’s such good news that you’re onto your novel’s final edits. My favorite part of novel writing, ups and downs included. You have a finish line date? I hope to be out west working on Zac’s and my new film before the winter is over, but we’ll see. Otherwise, Paris, mostly, yes. Thanks! Excellent to see you! ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff. I’m happy you loved ‘GotR’. Now I want to read it again. Years ago I had a friend who was somehow tangentially involved in Darger’s estate, and I got to read a big chunk of his novel, and it was pretty amazing as I recall. Bizarre that it still hasn’t found a way to be published after all of these years. The Darger thing I saw was … the Musee de Art Moderne owns a bunch of his work, and they had a whole room devoted to the collection. It might be permanent, I’m not sure. Yeah, I think his work is incredible. I know I’ll see the Campion at some point, but I don’t feel a lot of enthusiasm to watch it. Never been a huge fan of her stuff. I didn’t even like ‘The Piano’. I haven’t seen any films just lately other than a program of experimental films about nature at Jeu de Plume, which was quite good. I want to see ‘Drive My Car’, but I haven’t yet. I watched a bunch of Ryan Trecartin’s recent work for the conversation, and the newest one, ‘Whether Line’, is insanely great. Ryan and I talked last night. It was a huge pleasure and giant fun. I hope it’s interesting to watch. We got caught up talking about things, and I, at least, wasn’t thinking about whether watching the talk would be interesting. How are you generally? ** Steve Erickson, Very best of luck getting your computer right quickly. The talk with tan Trecartin was wonderful. It’s not really an interview, more us just catching up and enthusing/querying about each others’ work. Artforum hasn’t scheduled it yet, but I’ll let everyone know. ** Brendan, Cool, thank you for dropping off the book. I’m hoping to get to LA as soon as possible. Just waiting and waiting for the film funding that’ll occasion the trip. Happy pre-Xmas! ** Misanthrope, And what does that say about you, George? Dude, we’re super small fries to whoever is trolling all of our internet activities. Blips. I ain’t worried. The red shoes buche is my #2. Meaning I’ll probably end up eating it. Stellar, I think so. I hope whatever you eat that’s sweet is just as. ** Brian, Hi, Brian. Here’s hoping Roger was looking in. Yow, that’s one hell of a week you have and are having. What is the film production final? That sounds like theoretically the most exciting one? Well, you sound good and sharp of mind and spirits, so I know you’ll be coming out the other end of this work spurt elegantly. Great luck with everything, my friend. ** Right. I’m spotlighting the kind of ‘greatest hits’ collection by the key and great writer/theorist Avital Ronell today, and, yeah, please use your eyesight, etc. respectively while you’re in this spot. See you tomorrow.


  1. David

    Guess where I am Den?

    Just ran in the blustery drizzle… taking photos along the way… my new camera phone got a little wet… the only dry thing I could think of was my underpants… unfortunately in attempting to rub it against them… I went a layer too far and ended up rubbing it against my diddle.. .

    On arriving I changed and dried my hair in the hand dryer of the disabled toilet… there is no lock on the door… luckily no one walked in….

    Just finished breakfast… £5 for 2 eggs 2 hash browns 2 pieces of toast beans and a cup of tea…

    There are Christmas songs playing….

    Do you have a favourite Xmas song? One of mine is Kate Bush’s ‘December will be magic again’ ..


  2. Dominik


    Thank you for this wonderful post!

    The Christmas Zoom meeting is actually Anita’s current nightmare, but it sounded so bad that I needed to turn it into a love. I like nerdy too. The problem is that she’s working for a huge company, and she literally doesn’t know her colleagues. Due to the pandemic, she’s never even seen most of them in person. So having any kind of Zoom party in “something fun and festive” sounds awfully fake and forced. … I guess I’d ghost, haha.

    Oh man… It’d be really freaky but so cool. I’d share love’s happiness. Thank you! Love drying his hair ‘til his brain catches fire, Od.

  3. _Black_Acrylic

    Avital Ronell is a fearsome mind! Nice to see Solanas getting some props from her too.

    I watched that Coum Transmissions doc last night and it’s really great. Written and directed by the critic Dan Fox, it contains quite a bit of footage that I’ve never seen before, the Coum guys performing around the streets of Hull back in the day for instance. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.

  4. geymm

    Hi lovely DC, this post is really useful, thank you! I’ve been wanting to read Avital Ronell since I heard of her, weirdly enough because of her metoo scandal in 2018-19… I got a bit obsessed with the controversy around her, so I just wanted to get to know her philosophy, too, but I wasn’t sure where to start because she’s written so many things. Do you also recommend “Complaint: Grievance among Friends”? I love that photo of her with Judith Butler. I remember Butler defended her when the metoo controversy happened.
    Oh and congrats on being in the Guardian’s best books of the year! Honestly though I WISHED is the best book on that list (and in general)… I hope you’re excited about Xmas <3

  5. Ian

    Hey Dennis. I am doing well. Winter carpentry shuts down for some sectors but concrete form work (which I am doing) will go all year. I’m very excited to have work all winter and not end up on employment insurance. Some days will be very difficult but it’s all about wearing the right clothing. We do shut down for two weeks over Christmas so that will give me time to write. Yayyyy!
    As for the book, no hard finish date yet but hopefully it will be ready for the world in 2022 before the summer.
    That’s cool you will get out west to work on the movie. Look forward to seeing what you guys create.
    I started reading Torpor but Chris Kraus. I think that she was in one of yr blog posts at some point so I got the one book they had at the library. It’s pretty cool so far.
    Take care,

  6. David Ehrenstein

    RegardijngAvyital Ronnell

    Regarding the Pet Shop Boys

    • David

      Great concert thanks David E

  7. Brian

    Hey, Dennis,

    The film production final is drearier than you’d expect. It’s just a simple continuity editing project, which I think I’ve got a good grasp on, but it’s not particularly interesting or exciting to me in and of itself. It is giving me an opportunity to actually work concentratedly on sound design, though, which is an area of filmmaking that I’ve had a sore lack of experience in (previous stuff was very, like…just on-set dialogue plus music track), so getting to do that has been fun and edifying. Some days I feel that I would really, really love to make films more than anything, but then I remember I don’t have either the talent, ambition, or resources requisite to make that a reality, so I put it aside. (Which I’m perfectly content to, or course.) Anyway, thank you for the well-wishes, lol. Trying to stay in the grindset. Hope your middle of the week proves to be one of its high points.

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