Coming out of and refocusing parts of her earlier work, in Willful Subjects, Ahmed’s “willfulness archive” draws new attention to what remains one of the most pervasive phenomenological challenges of feminist, queer, and queer feminist lives. Using an inter-imbricative[i] style of writing and thinking, Ahmed “follows” will around, collecting various ways of will by noting when will arises (and is judged to have arisen), in what form, and through its relations of allegiance and opposition. Will emerges as often unexpected and pressing, as that which at once draws attention to itself, unbidden by others, unintended by oneself, and–potentially–highlighting the background against which it appears. Ahmed’s “following” reveals why and how will is so intimately related to selfhood and individuality, all the while troubling orthodox Western views of selfhood and individuality as expressions (and suppressions) of will as intention.
“Don’t pull the Max Brod [the friend who refused to burn all of Kafka’s materials upon his death] trick on me,” Michel Foucault is said to have admonished friends. The philosopher and historian did Kafka one better by including a blunt, categorical line in his will: “No posthumous publications.”
Be that as it may, in late spring the University of Minnesota Press issued Language, Madness, and Desire: On Literature, a volume of short texts by Foucault originally published in France two years ago and translated by Robert Bonnono. The same press and translator also turned the surviving pages of an autobiographical interview from 1968 into a little book with big margins called Speech Begins After Death. The title is kind of meta, since Foucault, like Kafka, seems to be having an unusually wordy afterlife.
Here. It’s more of a review of Kevin Hart’s work on Marion than the actual book under discussion–a lovely trick. The conclusion is particularly condescending, especially since, as I know well from having attended graduate school with her, Gschwandtner is not some postmodernist, as he suggests, and her knowledge of the history of phenomenology, I’m sure, outranks the reviewer, whose work on Derrida I’m much more familiar with (and which Martin Hägglund spent much time dismantling in Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life):
One would not read Degrees of Givenness in order to grasp the depths or the nuances of Marion’s creative uses of Husserl and Heidegger: Gschwandtner does not present herself as a historian of phenomenology or seek to evaluate Marion’s contributions to theory of reduction, modes of being, or the extent of phenomenality, for example. Her Marion is a contemporary, someone who has surprised many folk in European philosophy by suddenly [really? Marion is the only one?] insisting on the primacy of Gegebenheit [givenness] and seeming to insist too heavily on it. I do not doubt that there are significant moments in Marion’s work where his drive to present his view of things in a single-minded manner results in a blurring of what gives itself and what shows itself or that at times he is drawn to use a language marked by violence, and Gschwandtner is quite right to express perplexity when she encounters these moments. Perhaps, though, we are in need of another book, one entitled Degrees of Givenness and Showing.
Last week at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum, Peggy Kamuf, one of the English translators of the Derrida Seminars, provided a quick update on their publication schedule. This year, in French, will see the publication in October (as of now, but Galilée is becoming a bit notorious with delays), of the second volume of Derrida’s two-year seminars on the death penalty (2000-1). Next year, Elizabeth Rottenberg will provide an English translation of this second year, while in French is due to be published what I think will be the important 1975-6 seminar La vie la mort. Originally, the seminars were to be produced in French (with translations in English and now Italian to follow quickly) going backward. Thus we have translated the two years of the Beast and the Sovereign seminars (2001-2; 2002-3), then the move to death penalty lectures, with projections forward of the mid-90s seminars, and so on.
But a couple of years ago, it was decided that this backward-going approach would alternate with earlier years as editors pieced together transcripts, etc., enough for suitable publication. Thus in 2013, Galilée published Heidegger : la question de l’Etre et l’Histoire : Cours à l’ENS-Ulm 1964-1965, which to my mind was an important choice, not least for those pedagogues introducing the earlier Derrida. That course alone is a better entry point than other essays and books he wrote during that time–at least to my mind after frustrated goes with undergrads with Of Grammatology and so on, where they seem just to learn a trick or two (writing over speaking! think from the margins!) but not much more in depth. In any case, Geoffrey Bennington will have a translation soon of that text in English.
In any case, each year will see, if Galilée keeps up its schedule, a new Derrida volume, oscillating between the next set going backward from the present and one of the older years. Next up, as mentioned, is La vie la mort [updated: see below; it is due perhaps in 2019]. The Italian translator, Francesco Vitale, gave a paper arising out of that seminar, largely building on his project of what he’s calling “bio-deconstruction.” But here, Derrida, more explicitly than anywhere in print, deals with specific texts on biology, in order to tease out at length what he meant by very short comments about writing, DNA, and the life sciences in Of Grammatology (1967) and elsewhere. He thus takes up evolution, DNA, and livings systems in terms of traces, etc., while, according to Vitale, arguing that one shouldn’t use “texts” as a determining model for undermining the logocentrism of the then-contemporary biological sciences. (Vitale, by the way, will be submitting his important addendum to this work for a chapter in the New Continental Philosophy of Science volume I’m putting together with my colleague Jay Foster.)
Then after that, will be the opening of the series on the pardon (1997-9), before turning back again to another mid-70s set of lectures, this one on “Theory and Practice,” dedicated to Althusser. This will be another seminar where Derrida will comment at length on a figure or area not covered explicitly at length in his published books. In this way, I think, these seminars, far more perhaps than the later ones, which largely cover ground one would have expected from published interviews and texts, could open up various news ways for rethinking his work, just as, say, Foucault’s seminars have done beyond his published works on such topics as governmentality, racism, economics, and so on.
CORRECTION: An update to the update above. Peggy Kamuf was kind enough to send along a clarification, since I guess I was a bit literal with the going back and forth between newer and older seminars, as I had written in my notes. She writes, “There’s an error that it would be good if you could correct: La vie la mort is not the next seminar in the pipeline after Death Penalty II. We have only begun editing the French text, so it’s going to be some time before it will be published, maybe 2019. The next early seminar published will be Théorie et pratique from 1975-76 on Althusser and Gramsci.” Many thanks to her, not least for a great seminar last week as well as the arduous work, along with the other editors, of putting these lectures together for publication.
The book is Burhanuddin Baki’s Badiou’s Being and Event and the Mathematics of Set Theory (Bloomsbury 2015), and the review is here. Livingston has been arguing for some time that Badiou can bridge, via his formalism, some of the Continental/analytic divide, noting for example:
As Badiou’s formidable edifice of thought continues to be received and debated within increasingly broad discussions continuous with both the “analytic” and “continental” traditions, a good understanding of his formalisms will be increasingly necessary in order to assess its real implications for the issues at stake. This assessment may involve probing evidently close formal connections such as (as Baki points out) that between Badiou’s application of forcing and its role within Kripkean semantics for modal logic. But it is likely also to involve considering the bearing on Badiou’s argument of key problems and questions debated by analytic philosophers in recent decades.
I’m less convinced, not least because formalism has its limits, though I really enjoy Paul’s work and get much from it each time I read him, but also because unless I’m missing a vast ouevre out there on Badiou in analytic circles, his kind of wide ontological and metaphysical claims cut against the grain of those analytics particularly interested in formalistic enterprises.