Gert-Jan van der HeidenMar 18, 2021
The Voice of Misery
A Continental Philosophy of Testimony
SUNY Press 2020
In this episode, I interview Gert-Jan van der Heiden, Professor of Metaphysics and Philosophical Anthropology at Radboud University in Amsterdam, about his book, The Voice of Misery: A Continental Philosophy of Testimony, recently published by SUNY Press. In the book, van der Heiden takes up the question of testimony, which is popular in philosophical discourses today—from analytic epistemological approaches to those that emerge from critical race and feminist theory. While important advances are made in these disciplines, van der Heiden argues that contemporary continental philosophy offers a rich source for another approach to testimony that combines the ontological, epistemological, ethical, and logical elements of testimony in order to more fully understand what occurs in the event of bearing witness.
Beginning with six literary experiments, The Voice of Misery approaches the event of testimony and its connection to language at the limits of what can be expressed: in the silent, the unspeakable, the mute. From this grounding, the text then moves into a more traditionally philosophical investigation of the peculiarity and particularity of testimony in a dazzling dialogue with the most well-known figures of recent continental thought: Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Giorgio Agamben, and Martin Heidegger, amongst others. Ultimately, van der Heiden extrapolates from the thinkers and authors with whom he engages an effective and moving overview of the acts of witnessing and bearing witness, allowing us to better understand how these twinned acts structure our realities.
Britt Edelen is a Ph.D. student in English at Duke University. He focuses on modernism and the relationship(s) between language, philosophy, and literature. You can find him on Twitter or send him an email.