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Spring 2024


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New in Radical Philosophy
Rhythm is rhythm

In a recent review in Radical Philosophy, Nick Lambrianou discusses The Form of Becoming: Embryology and the Epistemology of Rhythm by Janina Wellmann. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:

The Form of Becoming traces the emergence of the ‘embryological and rhythmic episteme’ across those domains of knowledge which became focussed on the ‘temporalisation’ or ‘dynamisation’ of observable phenomena from the second half of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. One of the key achievements of Wellmann’s project is its tracking of the sheer amount of iconographical and conceptual attempts at representing ‘rhythm as becoming’ from multiple texts in different disciplines. Unsurprisingly, the acknowledgements reference a dazzling range of academic and scientific institutions, across a number of specialisms and territories. Looming over this encyclopaedic landscape, perhaps inevitably, stands Goethe, whose simultaneously literary-scientific obsession with becoming and metamorphosis could be seen to act as a model for the ambitious cross-disciplinary sweep of Wellmann’s book itself.

Nonetheless, Wellmann tames a potentially sprawling project by clarifying that the intention is not to identify any single field of knowledge in which the concept of rhythm originated, and she is equally dismissive of any attempt to address ‘migrations, adaptations or mutual influence’ across disciplines. Rather, the methodological intent is to trace the changing meanings of the concept as they were formed in the experimental systems, research practices and technologies of observation of the period: the ‘numerous theatres’ attempting to capture rhythm and becoming running simultaneously. This is therefore as much a book about a certain moment in visuality and iconology as it is a history of science or ideas: ‘Observation and experiment, text and image, concepts and material objects are all part of this understanding of how a concept is constituted as a category.’"