Invited Lecture at Le Moyne College

Syracuse, New York

Directed a Colloquium on Emerson and Nietzsche in Big Sky, Montana


Seeing Metaphors         




Global Perspectives on

an American Icon

Barry Tharaud, editor

University of Delaware Press (2010)



The Limits of Instruction:

Pedagogical Remarks on

Lars von Trier’s

The Five Obstructions

Vol. 13 (2009)

Film and Philosophy

    Special Edition:

Teaching Philosophy

Through Film


Rethinking the First Person

Autobiography, Authorship, and the

Contested Self in Malcolm X



Mark T. Conard, editor

The University Press of Kentucky (2011)


created as Coordinating Producer and Consulting Editor

with Academy Award nominated

Director William Jersey


Master Cinematographer Robert Elfstrom

click to view catalogue & order

I was chosen by Werner Herzog to participate in his roving educational experiment for the cinematic spirit—Rogue Film School.

RFS is Herzog’s personal, peripatetic, clandestine workshop devoted to the character of one’s soul, the nature of ecstatic truth, the possibility of aesthetic ecstasy, and honestly facing the reality of one’s “inner landscapes.”


Note to Self:

Learn to Write Autobiographical Remarks

from Wittgenstein



Daniel Steuer, Wolfgang Huemer, and Sascha Bru, eds.

De Gruyter (2013)

Created with ColdWater Media


The False Pretender

Deleuze, Sherman, and

the Status of Simulacra

The Journal of Aesthetics

and Art Criticism

Vol. 69, No. 3 (Summer 2011)


“A Lead Ball of Justice”

The Logic of Retribution and

the Ethics of Instruction

in True Grit


Still, Standing

Anonymous Desire and Unarticulated Threat in

Julian Hibbard’s The Noir A-Z


The Journal of Media Arts and

Culture Criticism

Vol. 38, No. 5

March/April 2011


The Ethics of Contracts,

Conscience, and Courage in

The Insider



Aeon Skoble, Steven M. Sanders, and

R. Barton Palmer, editors

The University Press of Kentucky (2014)


Out of Nowhere

Remarks on Julian Hibbard’s

Existential Graphs



Julian Hibbard

Buzz Poole, editor

Mark Batty Publisher, New York

Reviewed on:

Editor of Volume

Estimating Emerson

An Anthology of Criticism

from Carlyle to Cavell

Edited with an Introduction

and Annotations


David LaRocca

67 celebrated writers

174 years of criticism

736 pages

Bloomsbury 2013


Not Following Emerson:

Intelligibility and Identity in the Authorship of Literature, Science, and Philosophy

Vol. LIV, No. 2, Winter 2013

James B. M. Schick, editor


Everyone’s Autobiography

Remarks on Anxiety and Pseudonymity

in the work of

Soren Kierkegaard and

Charlie Kaufman

The New York Public Library

South Court Auditorium

February 16, 2012


The Education of


An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell

The Journal of Aesthetic Education

Vol. 47, No. 2 (Summer 2013)

An earlier version of the essay was presented

at the conference “Wittgenstein Reading”

Universiteit Gent (Belgium)

June 25, 2010




A Semiotic Ethics


A Journal of Performance Studies

Vol. 9, No. 1 (2013)





Stanley Cavell, Literature, and Film:

The Idea of America

ed. Andrew Taylor and Aine Kelly (2012)

Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature

Introduction to Book


A Series of Remarks on

Takashi Homma’s New Waves

New Waves 2000-2013

Photographs by Takashi Homma

September 12 - October 26, 2013

Opening Reception:

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 6-8 pm

The artist will be present


Longhouse Projects

Hudson Square

285 Spring Street

(between Hudson & Varick)

New York, NY 10013

link to exhibition

“This immensely learned, deeply thoughtful and far-ranging book helps re-situate Emerson in his own time, and in ours. More than just a work of scholarship, it rises to the level of philosophical investigation. It is also witty, playful and, in its own strange way, original.”

Phillip Lopate

editor of Writing New York and The Art of the Personal Essay

Director of the Graduate Program in Nonfiction, and Professor

Columbia University

“In this elegantly written, scrupulously researched book,

David LaRocca has convincingly demonstrated that, rather than locating a restricted area of inquiry, Natural History constitutes the grounding precondition for Emersonian thinking. [. . .]”

Donald E. Pease

Professor of English and the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, Dartmouth College

“David LaRocca treats Emerson's English Traits with the philosophical seriousness and sophistication the book has long deserved, but never before so richly received. [. . .] This is a valuable contribution to the re-assessment of Emerson's most neglected work, and a distinctive example of creative hermeneutical engagement.”

Neal Dolan

Associate Professor of English, University of Toronto

“In this wonderful book,

David LaRocca illuminates Emerson's mind by, in effect, pursuing his methods. LaRocca's treatment of English Traits is no mere academic summary. [. . .] With a vast range of reference, running from Wittgenstein to Darwin and from Coleridge to Montaigne, and an engagingly 'album'-like structure, the book traces Emersonian connections between topics as remote as the origins of evolutionary theory, the making of commonplace books and the rise of the American anti-slavery movement. It offers a glitteringly many-sided examination of the evolution of Emerson's deeply creative mind in its efforts to arrive at an understanding, not only of England, but also of the nascent American culture that it was in process of helping to form.” 

Bernard Harrison

Emeritus E. E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy,

University of Utah and

Emeritus Professor of the Humanities, University of Sussex

Bloomsbury 2013

408 pp.

“In this finely crafted and highly original piece of scholarship, LaRocca not only draws attention to one of the most neglected texts in Emerson’s oeuvre, he also presents an extended and insightful meditation on the nature of metaphor and the formation of cultural identity. Like a true florilegium, the collection of remarks continuously surprises—but not with gimmicks, rather with the kind of uncanny observations the method of criticism and arrangement is meant to illuminate. Combining literary sensibility with philosophical acumen, Emerson’s English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor also prompts urgent and serious reflection on the relation between literature, philosophy and natural science more generally. Its publication is, therefore, as timely as Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations, and should be greeted with just as much applause.”

Mario von der Ruhr

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Swansea University, Wales, and

Associate Editor of the journal Philosophical Investigations

link to gallery
to exhibit and
catalogue in


Affect without Illusion

The Films of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

After Ed Wood



Jennifer L. McMahon, editor

The University Press of Kentucky (2014)

Italian philosopher, novelist, and editor of

I Have a Book in the Head (Ho un Libro in Testa)

The Philosophical Side of American Literature

Il lato filosofico della letteratura americana

November 13, 2013

Read the interview in Italian online

or click to the left for a copy in English

PDF of interview in EnglishDavid_LaRocca_files/David%20LaRocca%20Responses%20to%20Silvia%20Bellia%20November%202013.pdf

Interviewed by

Silvia Bellia

A Review from Choice:

“With this study, LaRocca emerges as a theorist as well as an important scholar of Emerson in an age when ‘theory’ has become a footnote. His recent edited volume Estimating Emerson (Choice, Nov 2013, 51-1329), which offers cultural/philosophical reflections on Emerson, and his essay "Performative Inferentialism: A Semiotic Ethics" (published in the February 2013 issue of the journal Liminalities) testify to this. The present study stands alone in its treatment of the little-studied English Traits (1856), though LaRocca pays due diligence to the studies that have preceded his. His key concern is how to read Emerson historically (in terms of 19th-century metaphors of natural science) while appreciating him ‘transcendentally’ (as a method of thinking in the 21st). This study performs the Emersonian inheritance of analogy, of seeing the one in the many. In studying English Traits, LaRocca looks at journals, figures, sentences, and paragraphs occurring throughout his essays, and offers reflections on Emerson and the ‘nature’ of metaphor. This study should be read by those who think themselves comfortable with Emerson, and by those who feel abandoned by theory. Mostly, though, this should be read by those who are in interested in figuring the thought that lies beyond reach.”

Summing Up:  Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

—  R. T. Prus

Professor and Chair of English, Humanities, and Languages

Southeastern Oklahoma State University


Editor of Volume

The Philosophy of War Films

. . . now in paperback

“A significant contribution to not only the philosophy of the war film but also to philosophy of film itself.”

“The essays are fresh and surprising.”

“Written by an outstanding array of international scholars.”

“Important and timely.”

“Connecting the reality of war with the art of filmmaking.”

“Rich and deeply thought-out consideration of the representation of war on film.”

“[LaRocca] makes many insightful observations, especially over the relation between the truth of war and the images of

war on screen.”

“This is a serious book. [...] and I highly recommend it.”


We Were Educated for This?

Paideia, Agonism, and the Liberal Arts



This Book Isn’t a Metaphor for Anything

Richard Greene and Rachel Robinson-Greene, editors

Open Court (2015)

Editor of Volume


Transcendental Etudes

30 years of

Stanley Cavell’s essays

on Emerson

Edited with preface, annotations,

a general index, and

a citation index

Stanford University Press 2003

in the series

Cultural Memory in the Present

edited by Hent de Vries and

Mieke Bal

From a review in American Literary History:

“In making a new case for the philosophical sophistication of English Traits, LaRocca has achieved his own Emersonian feat, the creation of a new ‘atmosphere in which to think’.”

Jacob Risinger

Assistant Professor of English, The Ohio State University

To read the full review in ALH Online Review click below:

From a review in the Journal of American Studies:

“I imagine David LaRocca having fun composing this book—not because it is in any way frivolous or frolicsome (chapter 1 is titled ‘More Prone to Melancholy’) but because it is an engaging experiment in criticism, an attempt to perform literary study in such a way as to bring its subject to life. [. . . A ] florilegium such as Emerson’s, such as LaRocca’s, emits a kind of ‘bouquet,’ and ‘atmosphere in which to think.’ The patient reader, the reader willing to make ‘interpretive shifts,’ a reader capable of ‘loyalty to the present’ and of reinforcing ‘an openness to the complexity of emerging phenomena,’ will find that atmosphere by turns exhilarating, confusing, enticing, and drowsy with the hum of bees. Nevertheless, the reader must grant that removing Emerson’s writing from a museum and placing it in a florilegium does wonders for its constitution.”

T. S. McMillin

Professor of English, Oberlin College

To read the full review in the Journal of American Studies

click the cover to the right:


Equivalent Simulation

A Conversation with John Opera


The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism

John Opera is an American photographer who works at the intersection of photographic materiality and light-derived abstraction.

Vol. 42, No. 6 May/June 2015

Director of Documentary Film

Brunello Cucinelli:

A New Philosophy of Clothes

Official Selection of the

New York City

International Film Festival (premiere)

New York City

Independent Film Festival

NewFilmmakers New York

at Anthology Archive

Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

Click on journal cover to read two articles

on Cucinelli in

The Journal of Religion and Business Ethics Vol. 2 (2015)

2013, 38 min.

“This tactfully edited, helpfully annotated collection of essays makes

available a body of work, developing over thirty years, in which Stanley

Cavell has argued the case for Emerson as a serious philosopher.”

Stephen Mulhall

Professor of Philosophy, Oxford University

in the Times Literary Supplement

“This is the definitive anthology on America’s premier man of letters — Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

Cornel West

Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University

The Messenger (2009)

dir. Oren Moverman

June 15

Return (2011)

dir. Liza Johnson

July 20

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

dir. Werner Herzog

August 17

BHS related events include presentations by

Sebastian Junger (Restrepo, The Last Patrol) and

Phil Klay (Redeployment)

15 contributors

538 pages

in Mark Conard’s series

The Philosophy of Popular Culture

University Press of Kentucky

2014, paperback 2018

Coeditor of Volume

A Power to Translate the World:

New Essays on Emerson and

International Culture

with Ricardo Miguel-Alfonso

The impact of global thinkers on Emerson; Emerson’s impact on global thought

“Emerson was always a transnational thinker, and in this respect as in others, we have yet to catch up with him. This fine, wide-ranging volume will be of considerable help. These essays bring one to Emerson from, and allow one to travel out from his texts towards, a variety of geographical, cultural, and disciplinary regions, often in surprising ways.”

Russell B. Goodman

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy

University of New Mexico

“The essays gathered in this superb collection testify to the centrality of the historical and political to [Emerson’s] thinking. Indeed, Emerson here emerges as a truly international writer who himself thought in a setting that far exceeded the boundaries of the national.”

Branka Arsic

Professor of English

Columbia University in the City of New York

“[The book] invigorates by means of sudden discoveries, cross-connections, overlaps, gaps, as each of these ‘prismatic’ essays reflects the question afresh.”

Laura Dassow Walls

William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English

University of Notre Dame

[access the full review by clicking below]

18 contributors

339 pages

in Donald Pease’s series

Remapping the Transnational:

A Dartmouth Series in

America Studies

Dartmouth College Press

University Press of New England



Building a Brand with

Bricks and Beliefs

J. P. Kuehlwein interviews David LaRocca

Book Event:

Cornell University

Department of English

Contributors gather to

discuss the volume.

Please join us.

April 29, 2016

Friday, 4:30-7pm

Goldwin Smith Hall

English Lounge

One of Emerson’s “most astute interpreters . . . LaRocca consistently challenges the limits of academic categorization.”

“Rather than argument, the book is a smart, exciting demonstration of Emersonian thinking and a way to approach his work by its affiliations—to other Emerson texts and to texts by others—and ‘to make allusions coalesce.’

Learned, daring, and lively, LaRocca’s book is the most provocative treatment of Emerson this year.”

Robert D. Habich

Professor of English, Ball State University

Past President of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society

Former Editor of the Emerson Society Papers

from American Literary Scholarship (2013) 3-21


Of Photographing in Ice

A Conversation with Julian Hibbard


The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism

Julian Hibbard is a British photographer and author who has published The Noir A-Z:

A Modern Abecedary (2009) and Schematics:

A Love Story (2011). LaRocca discusses the earlier projects and picks up with Hibbard in the midst of his latest body of work, Transference.

Vol. 43, No. 6 May/June 2016


Editor of Volume

The Philosophy of

Documentary Film:

Image, Sound, Fiction, Truth

. . . now in paperback

Editor of Volume

The Bloomsbury Anthology of

Transcendental Thought:

From Antiquity to the Anthropocene

31 contributors

644 pages

in Mark Conard’s series

The Philosophy of Popular Culture

Rowman & Littlefield


85 iconic philosophers & writers

848 pages

Bloomsbury Academic


“This anthology is a gem! . . .

Get it for yourself and see!”

Bringing together documentary filmmakers, philosophers, and film theorists, this volume will be an important resource for all of those who are interested in this important genre of filmmaking, be they students, professors, scholars, or just serious film viewers.”

Thomas E. Wartenberg

Mount Holyoke College

The Philosophy of Documentary Film is a welcomed addition to the scholarly study of a mischievous praxis—one that continues to expand, contract, merge, and mangle in its attempts to explore versions of “real life” on film. Periodic, thoughtful reflection on this rogue form is necessary, and this book provides it. The leading lights of nonfiction film scholarship are well represented, and especially pleasing to me, as a documentary filmmaker, is the fact that documentarians have also been enlisted to write about our craft. Furthermore, just for good measure, The Dogma 95 Manifesto is included as both a beacon and dangerous shoal to filmmakers exploring the choppy waters around the fiction/nonfiction whirlpool. Great idea!”

Ross McElwee

Director, Sherman’s March, Bright Leaves

Professor of the Practice of Filmmaking, Harvard University

“An impressive selection, including some of the most interesting voices in documentary thought.”

Jonathan Kahana

University of California, Santa Cruz

“A marvelous collection that promises to inform the teaching of nonfiction film for years to come.”

J. P. Sniadecki

Director, The Iron Ministry

Northwestern University

“Timely. Vital. Engaging. An essential companion to any thinking about documentary cinema. David LaRocca is especially attuned not just to the voices at the heart of theoretical debates but, to my liking, also to those who push out into the practice and craft of documentary filmmaking.”

Paul Cronin

School of the Visual Arts

“This is the collection of essays on documentary film that I have been waiting for. It brings together many of the best classic pieces on documentary theory and practice and a thrilling assortment of new essays by philosophers, films scholars devoted to aesthetic issues and close reading, and documentary filmmakers who teach. The writing throughout is of the highest order, and the promise of genuine (as opposed to tinkertoy) philosophical inquiry is amply kept. LaRocca has done an exemplary job of editing, and his lengthy overview essay which serves as the volume’s introduction is incisive and indispensable.”

George Toles

University of Manitoba

“These works in hand are contemporary perspectives on, for me, the most vibrant practice in contemporary cinema. They call us to think carefully and seriously not only about the truth claims and strategies of specific documentary films but also about why documentaries are so central to our age.”

Timothy Corrigan

University of Pennsylvania

“With the pervasive and facile use of digital manipulation of images in public and private communications, few questions are more important than the question raised by this richly rewarding book—‘What is real and what is fake?’”

Bill Jersey

winner of two Peabodys, Emmys, and Oscar nominations

“From considerations of Plato to Cavell and well beyond, these memorable essays fruitfully explore both truth and make-believe in documentary film, as well as the manifold challenges of discerning the elusive differences between them.”

Lawrence Rhu

University of South Carolina


On Cucinelli’s New Philosophy

of Clothes

Marc Vander Maas interviews David LaRocca

for RadioFreeActon

For a list of available titles visit:

David LaRocca Books


Errol Morris:

Re-enactment and Reconception


Sofia Coppola:

Fame and Self-Reference

American Independent 3

ed. John Berra

Intellect Books (2016)


Teaching Without Explication:

Pedagogical Lessons from Ranciere’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster

in The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Emperor’s Club

in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC)

Eamonn Dunne, editor

No. 10 (2016)


The Last Great


of the Virtues:

MacIntyre after Austen

Jane Austen and Philosophy

ed. Mimi Marinucci (2016)

Great Authors and Philosophy Series


Hunger in the Heart

of Nature:

Werner Herzog’s Anti-Sentimental Dispatches from the American Wilderness (Reflections on

Grizzly Man)

Dark Nature: Anti-Pastoral Essays in American Literature and Culture

ed. Richard J. Schneider (2016)

Ecocritical Theory and Practice


Emerson Recomposed:

Nietzsche’s Uses of His American


Nietzsche and the Philosophers

ed. Mark T. Conard (2017)

Routledge Studies in Nineteenth Century Philosophy

in the updated edition of



Mark T. Conard, editor

The University Press of Kentucky (2012)



“In this brilliantly edited and introduced anthology, David LaRocca presents us with the broadest selection of authors, philosophers, visionaries, and artists, who have expressed the simple, difficult truths of the transcendental in the most profound and varied of ways.”

Hent de Vries

Russ Family Professor in the Humanities

and Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University;

Director of The School of Criticism and Theory

Cornell University

“Edited with great erudition and care by David LaRocca, the collection will be an indispensable handbook for anybody researching the heritage of that tradition.”

Branka Arsic

Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Columbia University in the City of New York

“[This] volume is more than an overview of a field of study—it is participating in the creation of one.”

Todd May

Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities

Clemson University

“LaRocca assumes more the guise of a curator than an editor, and provides us with a veritable Kunstkammer, that is, a cabinet of curiosities, a theater of memory, a world theater of philosophers, artists, and writers from all ages who have addressed the transcendental as a constant and elemental aspect of philosophy and life.”

Gregg Lambert

Dean’s Professor of Humanities

Syracuse University

“A splendid collection of some of the deepest thoughts of which humans are capable. The book is full of insights and surprises.”

John Lachs

Centennial Professor of Philosophy

Vanderbilt University

“A timely, provocative conversation seeking further to characterize Emerson’s bearing toward the world beyond the US.”

Christopher Hanlon

Professor of English

Arizona State University

[access the full review by clicking below]

LaRocca offers a synoptic anthology of essays that brings to our attention how war films can provoke contemplation and meditation because of the ways that such films inevitably focus on the mortality and vulnerability of human beings. The essays, written by an outstanding array of international scholars, work out various ways in which the genre can compel our thinking to become philosophical. This collection of essays constitute a significant contribution to not only the philosophy of the war film, but also to philosophy of film itself.

-- Daniel Flory, Montana State University

This volume offers rich and deeply thought-out consideration of the representation of war on film and of the ways filmic and now digital representation is deeply entangled with how we experience and think about war (up close or at a distance) in actual life. The book reaches back in film history but is especially provocative on war and its representation in the last decade—the situation we are living with now. The essays are fresh and surprising, showing the whole subject of war and film to be far more interesting, complex, and disturbing than in the standard thinking about war genre films that we are used to.

-- Charles Warren, Boston University

War is a pervasive condition, a constitutive part of human experience. The war film genre is extensive and multiform. It is no surprise, then, that war films are provocations to philosophical thought. This important and timely edited collection has an extensive introduction that seeks answers to vital questions: What sort of a phenomenon is a war film? What do we think we mean when we speak of a war film? What are war films for? Can war as such be represented by film? The essays that follow illuminate myriad ethical, aesthetic, epistemological and ontological issues as they related to a broad range of representations of war.

-- Guy Westwell, Queen Mary University of London

The philosophical reflections compiled in this book look at war films from a variety of perspectives. I commend editor David LaRocca for bringing together scholars who each, in different ways, engage the interdisciplinary mission of the inquiry into how war is depicted on screen. What is the philosophy of film, and then, of war films specifically? Do war films harbor a philosophy – of death, violence, love… - or does philosophy enrich the understanding of the cinematic of war? The Philosophy of War Films explores these questions and many more, connecting the reality of war with the art of filmmaking.

-- Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam

Invited Book Review

Cinematic Ethics:

Exploring Ethical Experience

through Film

Robert Sinnerbrink

Routledge 2015

Vol. 79, No. 1 Winter 2017


The Ballad of

Boba Fett:

Mercenary Agency and

Amoralism in War


The Ultimate Star Wars

and Philosophy:

You Must Unlearn

What You Have Learned

ed. Jason T. Eberl and

Kevin S. Decker

Wiley Blackwell (2016)

Curator and Moderator of Film Series

Three Film Screenings and Discussions

about Cinematic Representations of

Veterans Returning from the War Front

to the Home Front.

Presented during the summer of 2015

at the Brooklyn Historical Society

128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn NY 11201


Art-as-Activism and

Public Discourse

A Conversation with Diane Bush


The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism

Diane Bush is an American photographer and author of Warheads (2006). LaRocca discusses Bush’s long career of using photographic and image-based art for the purposes of political agitation and social critique.

Vol. 44, No. 4

January/February 2017



In the End, Is That

All There Is?         


Downton Abbey and


Thinking in that Manor

ed. Adam Barkman and Robert Arp

Open Court (2016)

article published in conjunction with an exhibit and installation

co-curated with Mark Morris in

the Department of Architecture, Art, and Planning at

Cornell University



in The Senses and Society

Michael Bull and David Howes, editors

Vol. 12, No. 11 (2017)

For this title in the "Re-Mapping the Transnational" series, LaRocca (College at Cortland, SUNY) and Miguel-Alfonso (Univ. of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain) have gathered 17 essays on Ralph Waldo Emerson and his relationship with the literatures across, and between, national boundaries. As a product of the 19th century, Emerson was very much interested in international cultural relationships. This is evident in the essays detailing his interest in Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and India. Yet, as the books in the Dartmouth series propose, the concept of the "transnational" attenuates the role of imperialism and globalism in the critical discussion, cf., essays detailing Emerson's influence on Maurice Maeterlinck, Vicente Huidobro, Rainer Maria Rilke, and others. For the most part, the essays here achieve both perspectives as they uncover the international influence on, and by, Emerson, and establish Emerson's transnational influence on later literature and philosophy. The essays are arranged in four categories: "Emerson beyond Borders in His Time," "Emerson and Global Modernity," "Emerson and the Far East," and "Emerson and the Near East." Although these essays are genealogical and trace influences, they simultaneously call into question origins, intention, and cause and effect. As this collection attests, Emerson is as important in an age of globalization as he was in an age of colonization.

Summing Up: ** Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.

R. T. Prus for Choice Reviews

Professor of English

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

A Power to Translate the World brings together the expertise of established and emerging Emerson scholars to offer seventeen new readings of both “Emerson’s incorporation of international culture and his effect on international culture” (24). Convinced that Emerson can be understood only with the help of an approach that extends beyond the explanatory framework of the nation, the volume’s contributors challenge and refine recent transnational and global interpretations of the Emersonian canon. [...] Refreshingly skeptical about the heuristic potential of the transnational as an analytical tool, LaRocca and Miguel-Alfonso advance something of a post-transnational argument in resurrecting the “perhaps old-fashioned” category of the “international” (6.) [...] In addition to reviving the international as a category, LaRocca and Miguel-Alfonso also make a plea for the rehabilitation of influence studies, seeking to extend its scope from the study of “direct evidence of reading” to a more conjectural engagement with less obvious forms of intellectual cross-pollination [...]

Tim Sommer for Emerson Society Papers (vol. 28, no. 1)

University of Heidelberg




of History         


Hamilton and


Revolutionary Thinking

ed. Aaron Rabinowitz

and Robert Arp

Open Court (2017)


“Memory Man”:

The Constitution of

Personal Identity in Memento

The Philosophy of Christopher Nolan

ed. Jason T. Eberl and George A. Dunn

Lexington Books of Rowman & Littlefield  (2017)


Translating Carlyle:

Ruminating on the Models of

Metafiction at the Emergence

of an Emersonian Vernacular


Special Issue of Religions

Kenneth S. Sacks and

Daniel Koch, editors

(2017), vol. 8., issue 8

Click here for full article


The European Authorization of American Literature

and Philosophy:

After Cavell, Reading “Bartleby” with Deleuze, then Rancière

Melville Among the Philosophers

ed. Corey McCall & Tom Nurmi (2017) Afterword by Cornel West


Cults of



The Americans and


Reds in the Bed

ed. Robert Arp and Kevin Guilfoy

Open Court (2018)


Shooting for the Truth:

Amateur Documentary Filmmaking, Affective Optics,

and the Ethical Impulse

in Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities

Dan Geva and Yvonne Kozlovsky-Golan, guest editors

Vol. 36, Nos. 2 & 3 (2017)

from the Afterword by

Cornel West

ed. Corey McCall & Tom Nurmi (2017)

The University Press of Kentucky

2011, 312 pp., hardback

2019, 344 pp., paperback

with new Preface


14 newly commissioned essays


with a preview of content at

Editor of Volume

I can’t think of a contemporary filmmaker who is more philosophical, and more deserving of philosophical attention, than Charlie Kaufman. Sometimes—especially when I’m in the middle of one—I think I’d like to spend every minute of every day watching Kaufman’s wildly creative, deliriously destabilizing, and profound and at times beautiful films. Sadly, that is not possible. But reading these essays may well be the next best thing. This frequently fascinating book will help audiences grasp and appreciate the full richness of what is to be found in the work of contemporary cinema’s most madcap metaphysician.

Troy Jollimore

Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Chico

Guggenheim fellow, author of Love’s Vision, On Loyalty, and Syllabus of Errors: Poems

How gratifying it is to have The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman available in paperback. David LaRocca, the editor of this extraordinary collection, has brought together a distinguished group of contributors from a number of disciplines—political theorists, philosophers, classicists, theologians, professors of literature, filmmakers, and poets. The diversity of background ensures a wide range of stimulating response. Kaufman, whether working as a director or screenwriter, is undeniably an auteur, and one of the book's many achievements is to suggest how decisive and significant the artistic contribution of a screenwriter can be. The questions that propel Kaufman's fictions are overtly and demandingly philosophical, but everything Kaufman does with his existential forays is laced with wit, and extravagant mischief. LaRocca's collection also demonstrates how Kaufman's work is implicitly in dialogue with the ideas of Stanley Cavell. Kaufman's thinking about romantic relationships in terms of repetition and renewal, his preoccupation with the mystery of the film medium's ways of making and unmaking the world, and his beleaguered quest for moral perfectionism all exhibit kinship with Cavell's approach to the beautifully tumultuous human situation.

George Toles

Distinguished Chair of Film, University of Manitoba

author of Paul Thomas Anderson & A House Made of Light: Essays on the Art of Film

and screenwriting partner of Guy Maddin

“An important volume, full of insights into one of the great philosophical screenwriters of recent times, if not of all time.”

Joshua Landy

Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French, Professor of Comparative

Literature, and co-director of the Literature and Philosophy Initiative at

Stanford University

author of Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust and

How To Do Things With Fictions

This rich and varied collection of papers helps us to better understand Kaufman’s wonderful films and explore the themes, philosophical and otherwise, that they contain. The section on the not-to-be-missed Synecdoche, New York, is especially rewarding. Read it and you will want to watch the film again and again.

C. D. C. Reeve

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and

contributor to Christopher Grau’s edited collection on

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


Achilles’ Tears:

Cavell, the Iliad, and

Possibilities for the Human

Stanley Cavell and Aesthetic Understanding

ed. Garry Hagberg

Philosophers in Depth

Palgrave Macmillan (2018)


Two Wrongs

Make a Right


Bad Arguments:

One Hundred of the

Most Important Fallacies

in Western Philosophy

ed. Robert Arp, Steven Barbone,

and Michael Bruce

Wiley Blackwell (2018)

Interviewed by Cris Alvarez on the occasion

of the paperback release (November 2018)


That’s a Problem

for You, Not Us



The Ethics of Secrecy

and Exposure

ed. Christian Cotton and

Robert Arp

Open Court (2019)

“In his famous story of Bartleby, we get Melville’s silences at the center of the U.S. capitalist machine—Wall Street. In David LaRocca’s fascinating essay, we see how the French philosophers—Deleuze and Rancière—have delved deep into the bowels of this Melville narrative. LaRocca shows that the profound radical and subversive silences in America’s greatest literary artist have been rendered silent by American philosophers. And just as Nietzsche’s love of Emerson helped authorize and legitimize Emerson for some American philosophers (despite James and Dewey’s magnificent centennial Emerson essays in 1903!), so Deleuze and Rancière may do the same for Melville. Needless to say, Sartre’s love of Faulkner did not do the job in the 1940s. Yet with the creative genius of Stanley Cavell, the Emerson revival in some precincts of philosophy was secured. [...]

LaRocca’s elegant plea for American philosophers to engage Melville’s art—as some do Nietzsche’s Zarathustra—is a cry of the heart and a call for Socratic questing. His acknowledgement “that American Letters (whether as Philosophy or Literature) has daddy issues” echoes Emerson’s “American Scholar,”—a call for cultural independence and intellectual courage. Yet nearly two hundred years later, LaRocca ponders whether we still have anxiety about our origins and get “caught up in schizophrenia, or more simply of madness.” Must we end where we began, that is, end with our near madness to engage and embrace our great literary artist just as we began with Melville’s near madness in a culture of his day hostile to his genius? I think not.

We are on the verge of a major renaissance of philosophic probings of Melville—similar to that of the Emerson revival of thirty years ago.” 


Interviewed by Joel Tscherne

on the occasion of the paperback

release (December 2018)

Guest Editor of Journal


Stanley Cavell

A Commemorative Edition of

Conversations: The Journal of

Cavellian Studies

Open source journal allows for

direct access to content and

pdfs for download

No. 7, Published June 19, 2019

Now available in PAPERBACK

With a New Preface by the Editor

Editor of Volume

The Thought of

Stanley Cavell and Cinema:

Turning Anew to the

Ontology of Film a Half-Century after The World Viewed

14 contributors

313 pages

Bloomsbury Academic


“A brilliant collection of original essays by major figures in the field. The genius of Cavell’s writing is in sharp focus throughout—likewise the continued provocation of The World Viewed and its successor books and essays.”

Michael Fried

J. R. Herbert Boone Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Art History,

The Johns Hopkins University

“Stanley Cavell argued that film exists in a state of philosophy. Part of what he meant by this was that thinking about a film is a way of doing philosophy. That has been his influential and most controversial claim. The authors in this collection explore what he might have meant in ways more variegated, thoughtful, original, and illuminating than anything I have seen before. The Thought of Stanley Cavell and Cinema, exemplary in its clarity and carefulness, is a watershed both in our understanding of Cavell and of film itself.”

Robert Pippin

Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor,

The University of Chicago

“[...] LaRocca celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of The World Viewed by gathering essays from 14 philosophers, film and literature scholars, and theorists in the US, UK, Australia, France, and the

Netherlands. The contributors all manifest the Cavellian influence. Though not the first collection devoted to Cavell’s cinema

writings nor likely the last, this book will be valuable to those interested in philosophy, film studies, literature, and US culture.”

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.

D. W. Rothermel,

Professor Emeritus

California State University, Chico

CHOICE review


“One of the Most

Phenomenal Debut

Films in the History

of Movies”:

The Sugarland Express as

Expression of Spielberg’s

“Movie Sense” and as

Contribution to a Genre



A Critical Companion

to Steven Spielberg

ed. Adam Barkman and

Antonio Sanna

Lexington Books (2019)


SCT: Summer

Camp for



In Theory: The Newsletter

of the School of Criticism

and Theory

Hent de Vries, ed.

Winter 2017

Book Review 

The American Road Trip and American Political Thought

by Susan McWilliams Barndt

The Review of Politics


Book Review 

Revolution of the


by Toril Moi

American Book Review


Book Review 

The Best Read


Nature Writings

of Ralph Waldo


ed. Michael P. Branch and

Clinton Mohs

Oxford Academic,

American Literary History



Weimar Cognitive


Modernist Narrativity and the

Metaphysics of Frame Stories

(After Caligari and Kracauer)

The Fictional Minds of

Modernism: Narrative Cognition

from Henry James to

Christopher Isherwood

ed. Ricardo Miguel-Alfonso (2020)

Editor of Volume

Inheriting Stanley Cavell:

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

20 contributors

357 pages

Bloomsbury Academic


“Inheriting Stanley Cavell, beautifully edited by David LaRocca, is so much more than a gathering of reminiscences and testimonials. So many of the pieces in the volume prove gripping, and they cumulatively transformed my sense of what Cavell had accomplished. This volume makes a strong case for the revolution that Cavell's extraordinary philosophic sensibility, powerful presence as a teacher, and wide-range of concerns brought about in North American philosophy. For many of the contributors, Cavell not only revived their faith in philosophy, but showed them what it meant to be alive in their feelings and thinking. He demonstrated, not only in The Claim of Reason but in his astonishing exploration of films, Shakespearean tragedies, and Wittgenstein, Emerson, and Thoreau, that the road back to ordinary language criticism was open, and our best hope for restoring value to humanistic study. The collection is also impressive for its decision to include dissenting voices.” 

          — George Toles, Distinguished Professor of English, Theatre, Film & Media, University of Manitoba

“The welcoming tone rightly identified by the editor as one genius of Stanley Cavell's exacting style has demonstrably been answered by this timely volume--and in just the right blend of reminiscence, reflection, and fresh testing. The intellectual heritage proposed, and so luminously proven, across these pages--convening a lineage of distinguished readers in their role, as always, of interlocutors--honors the balance of intimacy and reach in Cavell's influential philosophical writing: a style of thought inseparable from the searching prose that gave, that gives, it shape.” 

          Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa

“In moods ranging from the elegiac to the exuberant to the contentious, the essays collected here remember Cavell and his work, put it to further use, and engage with it critically. Together their authors compose a conversation that amounts to what Cavell once described philosophy as being--an education for grownups--in which accomplished, mature thinkers continually seek their better selves, amidst the plights and possibilities of culture.” 

          Richard Eldridge, Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell Professor of Philosophy, Swarthmore College

“The voices gathered in this collection, each finding a different balance between the claims of memory, sympathy, and critique, together illuminate the relation between Stanley Cavell's life and his writings, and disclose an unattained but attainable future for philosophy to which we all might be attracted.” 

          Stephen Mulhall, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, New College, University of Oxford

“David LaRocca has gathered together some of the world's foremost scholars of Stanley Cavell's work for this terrific volume of essays responding to Cavell's philosophy. Collating reprints of groundbreaking essays and original contributions, the book offers wonderful insight into the breadth and depth of Cavell's influence and features a beautifully detailed and lucid introduction by LaRocca that interweaves the various strands of Cavell's philosophy and their legacies. This is without doubt a definitive body of responses to Cavell's work: a must-read for anyone interested in Cavell's work, whatever discipline they are approaching from, and whatever their level of specialism.” 

          Catherine Wheatley, Lecturer in Film Studies, King's College London


The Autobiographical Sublime:

Achieving Herzog’s Persona at the

Intersection of the Home Movie, Self-Citation,

and Autofiction

in Estetica: Studi e Ricerche

Francesco Cattaneo and Richard Eldridge,

guest editors

Vol. X (January-June 2020)

15 contributors

341 pages

Bloomsbury Academic


Editor of New Volume

Movies with Stanley Cavell in Mind

“This volume pushes Cavellian scholarship forward, showing that the value of Cavell’s work lies not simply in understanding it but in applying it. By extending the philosopher’s methods to an exciting range of international and contemporary films, the chapters compose a timely consideration of what it is to read a film, and to read a film generously.”

          — Kyle Stevens, Assistant Professor of Film Studies, Appalachian State University

“Stanley Cavell is, to my mind, the best thinker for helping us account for the power of the film experience, and the fourteen chapters collected here provide ample reason for understanding the importance of Cavell for the study of film. All of the contributors to this wonderful, collective enterprise—brought together by David LaRocca—have in a similar way encountered him and his work. Whether they are revisiting films Cavell loved or taking up the invitation to explore new films, they reveal the importance of Cavell’s writing and method.”

Sandra Laugier, Professor of Philosophy, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Editor of New Volume


The Form and Content of

Filmic Reference and Reflexivity

Foreword by Robert B. Pippin

14 contributors

330 pages

Oxford University Press


“We all know meta when we see it, but up until now few have attempted to define it. This terrific book, comprising essays from both established and emerging scholars, is a welcome corrective to that oversight, and a vital addition to contemporary film and media theory."

Catherine Wheatley,

Reader in Film and Visual Culture, King's College London