As part of HWP 2014-15, Resident Thinker Jalal Toufic will be giving a seminar in 12 sessions, taking place every third Monday throughout the curricular year.

The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster

We live in a block universe of spacetime, where nothing physically passes and vanishes, but where occasionally things immaterially withdraw due to surpassing disasters. To detect this withdrawal, whether symptomatically or otherwise, one is well advised to look for it in messianic movements as well as in artistic and literary works. With regard to the surpassing disaster, art acts like the mirror in vampire films; it reveals the withdrawal of what we consider is still there. Following the surpassing disaster, the duty of at least some artists is to disclose the withdrawal (Duras’ Hiroshima mon amour, 1961; Godard’s King Lear, 1987) and/or to resurrect what became withdrawn (Godard’s King Lear). In normal times a nebulous entity despite the somewhat artificial process of canon formation, tradition becomes delineated and specified by the surpassing disaster: tradition is what conjointly materially survived the surpassing disaster, was immaterially withdrawn by it, and had the fortune of being subsequently resurrected by artists, writers, thinkers, and messianists. If they repeatedly prove unable to resurrect what was withdrawn by the surpassing disaster, tradition, then it can be argued that, at the end of the “season in hell,” thinkers, artists, writers, and messianists are to abolish tradition altogether: “absolutely modern” (Rimbaud).


The seminar is open to enrolled participants as well as others wishing to register.

To register, send an email to

Readings (please check regularly for updates):

  • Jalal Toufic, The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster (Forthcoming Books, 2009); download PDF here.

  • Jalal Toufic, فلاكت فائقه عقبنده بر متنى ناصل مطالعه ايتمه لى؟ (How to Read a Text Past a Surpassing Disaster?); download PDF here.

  • Jalal Toufic, Over-Sensitivity, 2nd ed., Forthcoming Books, 2009; download PDF here.

  • Serge Daney, Before and After the Image; available here.

  • Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975--1995 (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents), 2007,containing what is the creative act?; available from the library

  • Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, The Athlone Press, 1989; available here.

  • Jalal Toufic, Middle Eastern Films Before Thy Gaze Returns to Thee — in Less than 1/24 of a Second, e-flux Journal, no. 48 (10/2013), available from here.

  • “Notes Toward Cinematic Biographies of Some Qur’ānic Prophets,” in Jalal Toufic, Forthcoming, 2nd ed. (Berlin: e-flux journal-Sternberg Press, 2014), pp. 142–156; available from here.

  • “What Is the Sum of a Son and a Son—in a Dream?” in Jalal Toufic, What Is the Sum of Recurrently? (Istanbul, Turkey: Galeri Nev, 2010), pp. 32–41; available from here.

  • “What Is the Sum of a Night of Jouissance and a Night of Desire?” and “What Is the Sum of Velásquez’s Pope and Francis Bacon’s Pope(s)?” in Jalal Toufic, What Is the Sum of Recurrently? (Istanbul, Turkey: Galeri Nev, 2010), pp. 11–25 and 25–31 respectively; available from here.

  • Jouissance in Post-War Beirut,” in Jalal Toufic, Undeserving Lebanon (Forthcoming Books, 2007), pp. 42–71; available from here.

  • Screenings (please check regularly for updates):

  • Alain Resnais, Hiroshima mon amour, 1959

  • Jean-Luc Godard, King Lear, 1987

  • Ingmar Bergman, Persona, 1966

  • Sergei Parajanov, Ashik Kerib, 1988

  • Sergei Parajanov, The Legend of Suram Fortress, 1980

  • Sergei Parajanov, The Color of Pomegranates, 1969

  • Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo, 1958

  • Chris Marker, La Jetée, 1962

  • Terry Gilliam, Twelve Monkeys, 1995

  • Pier Paolo Pasolini, Arabian Nights, 1974

  • Jalal Toufic is a thinker and a mortal to death. He was born in 1962 in Beirut or Baghdad and died before dying in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois. The second edition of his book Forthcoming was published by e-flux journal-Sternberg Press in April 2014. His books, many of which were published by Forthcoming Books, are available for download as PDF files at his website: He was most recently a participant in the Sharjah Biennial 11, the 9th Shanghai Biennale, Documenta 13, “Six Lines of Flight” (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), and “A History: Art, Architecture, and Design, from the 1980s Until Today” (Centre Pompidou). In 2011, he was a guest of the Artists-in-Berlin Program of the DAAD; and in 2013–2014, he and Anton Vidokle led Ashkal Alwan’s third edition of Home Workspace Program.