Courses available in French


Mon utlime prière: Ô mon corps, fais de moi toujours un homme qui interroge!


French 274: Traditions of Critical Thought — French Theories and their Aftermaths


Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx

Catherine Malabou, La plasticité au soir de l’écriture

Jean-Luc Nancy, La communauté désœuvrée

Maurice Blanchot, La communauté inavouable

Michel Foucault, La volonté de Savoir. Droit de mort et pouvoir sur la vie.

Achille Mbembé, Nécropolitique

Jacques Rancière, Aux bords du politique

Course Description:

In this course, students will be introduced to the theoretical problems that have emerged in France in the wake of “French Theory.” We will consider the extent to which the questions and epistemological methods of structuralism, post-structuralism and deconstruction have been reshaped through the political urgencies of the 1980s and 1990s, in particular the emergence of neo-liberalism and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Reading Derrida, Malabou, Blanchot, Nancy, Rancière, Foucault, and Mbembé, we will explore how recent critical theory written in French has negotiated the enabling and foreclosing effects of these phenomena, as well as the intellectual traditions there carry with them, on the very procedures of critique—especially when critique aiming at social emancipation. Derrida’s late engagement with Marx through the notion of “spectrality” will be our first case study, followed by Malabou’s conceptualization of “plasticity” in the wake of Derrida’s “écriture.”

We will then will move to three of the fundamental theoretical gestures of the last three decades: the conceptualization of the “community,” alongside literary creation and at a critical distance from communism (Nancy, Blanchot, Rancière); the redefinition of the political, against the police order, as a disruptive redistribution of the sensible (Rancière); and the re-articulation of power as differentially exerted upon life (Foucault, Mbembé). In their oral presentations and papers, students will be encouraged to bring in the materials in dialogue with their areas of specialization.

Seminars will conducted in English. Readings in French.


Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes