(UPDATED–See Below) An Update on the Derrida Seminars

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.

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