Masterclass: Derrida’s wars in the words and modernist literature
Masterclass for postgraduate research students delivered by Professor Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania
The seminar will aim at presenting salient points of the thought of Jacques Derrida in so far as it relates to literary studies in general, with an emphasis on modernism, even though he stated that deconstruction was neither modernist nor post-modernist. I will show how the concepts and methods of reading launched by the French philosopher allow us to consider modernism differently. As we know, Derrida’s huge influence on American literary criticism in the seventies and eighties has waned in the nineties. Today, because the consensus about what makes literature literary, or about what constitutes the core of the “humanities” is vanishing, we are witnessing a return to his questioning mode of reading. Derrida, who always remained at the cusp between literature and philosophy, posed fundamental questions that aimed at changing the field of literary criticism, opening it to a number of alterities, whether ethical or political.
I will begin by tackling the theme of war, presenting Derrida in conversation with Albert Camus and Emmanuel Levinas. I will expand the scope to survey his clash with Lacanian psychoanalysis. Specific attention will be paid to his readings of poetry so as to assess how Derrida kept negotiating with Martin Heidegger and his take on feminism (or, better, the question of the feminine). I will discuss his readings of poets like Charles Baudelaire, Paul Valéry, Francis Ponge, and Paul Celan. I will end by addressing the original views he provides of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Derrida has established countless bridges between philosophy and literature, most of which have not been traversed. Here are theoretical places that we should occupy today. The seminar will draw on two collections that I have edited, After Derrida (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and Understanding Derrida/Understanding Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2019) and one book, Les Guerres de Jacques Derrida (Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2016).
Jean-Michel Rabaté, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, co-editor of the Journal of Modern Literature, co-founder of Slought Foundation, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the author or editor of more than forty books on modernism, psychoanalysis, philosophy and literary theory. Recent titles include Rust (2018), Kafka L.O.L. (2018), Rire au Soleil (2019), and the edited collections After Derrida (2018), The New Beckett Studies (2019) and Understanding Derrida / Understanding Modernism (2019). Forthcoming in 2020 are Beckett and Sade (Cambridge University Press) and the collection Knots: PostLacanian Readings of literature and film (Routledge).
This event is supported by Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC).
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