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Figurations of anger. Revenge, retaliation and the cultural imaginary

When it comes to revenge, boiling rage and cold calculation often disturbingly go hand in hand. The project inquires the delicate entanglement of emotion and reason, justice and injustice, reality and the imaginary that constitutes our notion of revenge.

Project No. G 302

Fabian Bernhardt

Revenge is based on a sense of justice that appears to be just as problematic as comprehensible. On the one hand, we deem revenge as base motive and morally reprehensible - on the other hand, there are numerous acts of revenge that meet our approval and even our admiration. Where does this discrepancy come from and what does it tell us about the ways we deal with anger and other proximate emotions? What part does the cultural imaginary play in this context that gave birth to a large number of highly popular revenging heroes such as Achilles, the Count of Monte Christo or Batman?

Conceptualizing the complex of revenge and retaliation as a mediating interface where different orders - such as justness and unjustness, emotions and reasoning, reality and imaginary - interfere with each other in an entangled way, the project aims at exploring the emotional and normative foundations of revenge. Thereby, it is intended to demonstrate that the imaginary plays a crucial role in the regulation of affects, as it allows to replace the real execution of revenge by an imaginary one. Situated in a threshold region between philosophy of the social sciences, legal philosophy, philosophy of emotions and aesthetics, the project contributes to a better understanding of how human beings react to experiences of being wronged.




Prof. Dr. Hilge Landweer

Prof. Dr. Jan Slaby