In Weird Mysticism: Philosophical Horror and the Mystical Text, Brad Baumgartner identifies a new genre of modern mystical writing and examines the interconnections among horror fiction, philosophy, and apophatic mysticism. He reveals how an innovative form of negative thinking is conjoined to a writing practice which engages in an interdisciplinary type of intellectual and aesthetic performance to allow for a simultaneous challenge to literary and philosophical authority via the speculative (i.e., the mystical text).
Along the way, Baumgartner examines how genre-bending, literary experimentation, and aphoristic discourse are often rooted in conjunction with perennial themes such as the beyond and the Outside. Through a theoretical lens which includes the traditions of apophatic theology, “the weird,” and work in the “speculative turn” in philosophy, Baumgartner looks at how perennial themes such as the beyond and the Outside might benefit from a textual analysis which validates and yet problematizes our critical relationship to horror.
The works of Thomas Ligotti, Georges Bataille, and E. M. Cioran are considered alongside the voices of several medieval mystics and modern philosophers. At a time marked by cultural, ecological, and economic crises, Weird Mysticism acknowledges the absolute’s very importance to human life and recognizes how the mystical in some way recuperates the limits of thought in order to think through them.
Brad Baumgartner is assistant teaching professor of English at Penn State University.
Introduction: The Path to Nowhere
1. Piercing the Cosmological Horizon
2. Thomas Ligotti: The Poetics of Darkness
3. Georges Bataille: Opening Up the Infinite
4. E. M. Cioran: The Horror of Being Oneself
Afterword: The Mystical Death of the Speculative Critic
This genuinely interdisciplinary study skilfully weaves together common threads of thought from a range of sources across different literatures and periods, and it places them convincingly in a continuum of ‘weird mysticism’. While the book's inquiry emerges from the pessimistic tradition, Baumgartner refuses to be morose, identifying an authentic sense of ecstatic uplift in the ostensibly horrific or transgressive literary works under discussion.