The Nick of Time

Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely

The Nick of Time

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 3 figures Published: December 2004

Author: Elizabeth Grosz

Cultural Studies, Science and Technology Studies > Feminist Science Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

In this pathbreaking philosophical work, Elizabeth Grosz points the way toward a theory of becoming to replace the prevailing ontologies of being in social, political, and biological discourse. Arguing that theories of temporality have significant and underappreciated relevance to the social dimensions of science and the political dimensions of struggle, Grosz engages key theoretical concerns related to the reality of time. She explores the effect of time on the organization of matter and on the emergence and development of biological life. Considering how the relentless forward movement of time might be conceived in political and social terms, she begins to formulate a model of time that incorporates the future and its capacity to supersede and transform the past and present.

Grosz develops her argument by juxtaposing the work of three major figures in Western thought: Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Henri Bergson. She reveals that in theorizing time as an active, positive phenomenon with its own characteristics and specific effects, each of these thinkers had a profound effect on contemporary understandings of the body in relation to time. She shows how their allied concepts of life, evolution, and becoming are manifest in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Luce Irigaray. Throughout The Nick of Time, Grosz emphasizes the political and cultural imperative to fundamentally rethink time: the more clearly we understand our temporal location as beings straddling the past and the future without the security of a stable and abiding present, the more transformation becomes conceivable.


The Nick of Time is a timely contribution to the history of philosophy. Making the point that ‘philosophy and theory in general’ do not address Darwinism, Grosz performs the considerable service of addressing that failure.” — Dorothea Olkowski, symploke

“[A] superb and timely intervention into three interwoven philosophies of the untimely.” — William E. Connolly, Political Theory

“Grosz’s book might fairly be called a tour de force: it’s hard to imagine how anyone could come to the end of it without having learned a great deal about the intricacies and interpretations of the work of its three central figures, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Henri-Louis Bergson. Whether this new knowledge will be of particular use, or culminate in something particularly enabling or surprising to those interested in queer studies, is an open question.” — Peter Coviello, GLQ

"[Grosz's] promotion of a reconceived biology is pertinent not only for feminist theory but also for cultural theory and literary theory more generally." — Randall Knoper, College Literature

"This is an important book, written in a lively, vibrant style, unusual in such complex philosophical discourse. I recommend it as essential reading for all interested in philosophy, feminist critique and the new wave of holistic humanities studies."
— Rob Harle, Leonardo Reviews

“Elizabeth Grosz traces a timely path through the work of three major thinkers. Darwin, Nietzsche, and Bergson, each in his own way, force a rethinking of duration and transformation at the interchange between nature and culture. The Nick of Time suggestively connects their trajectories, drawing them together into a contemporary dialogue on the politics and philosophy of change.” — Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation

“Elizabeth Grosz’s The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely is a major work. It achieves a richly nuanced and sweeping reconsideration of temporality in the context of contemporary feminist theory, critical theory, and theories of evolution. The considerations of Darwin, Nietzsche, Bergson, Deleuze, and Irigaray are especially impressive. The Nick of Time is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how memory, historicity, and politics connect to and are reconfigured by temporality.” — N. Katherine Hayles, author of How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics

“Superbly written, deftly executed, and wonderfully instructive, The Nick of Time is a first-class piece of writing and thinking. It is unique in that it is interested in ‘philosophy of life’ issues not only for their own sake but also because of Elizabeth Grosz’s wider theoretical and practical commitments, such as feminism and a radical cultural politics.” — Keith Ansell Pearson, author of Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elizabeth Grosz is Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space; Space, Time, and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies; and Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. She is the editor of Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory, and Futures.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Abbreviations ix

Introduction: To the Untimely 1

Part I. Darwin and Evolution

1. Darwinian Matters: Life, Force, and Change 17

2. Biological Difference 40

3. The Evolution of Sex and Race 64

Part II. Nietzsche and Overcoming

4. Nietzsche's Darwin 95

5. History and the Untimely 113

6. The Eternal Return and the Overman 135

Part III: Bergson and Becoming

7. Bergsonian Difference 155

8. The Philosophy of Life 185

9. Intuition and the Virtual 215

Conclusion: The Future 244

Notes 263

References 297

Index 309
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3397-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3400-2
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