Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe 1940-

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Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe 1940-
(Philippe Edmond Jean Lacoue-Labarthe)


Born March 6, 1940, in Tours, France; son of Jean (a teacher) and Jacqueline (a teacher) Lacoue-Labarthe; married Francine Lange, December 21, 1963; children: Mathieu, Emmanuel. Education: Received doctorat d'état, 1987.


Home—6 Rue Charles Grad, 67000 Strasbourg; and Les Hautes Ayes, 38590 Saint-Etienne de Saint-Geoirs, France. Office—Faculté de philosophie université II, 67000 Strasbourg, France.


Philosopher, writer. Lycée Michel- Montaigne, Bordeaux, France, teacher of philosophy, 1963-67; Université des sciences humaines de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, assistant professor, 1967- 71, master assistant professor of philosophy, 1971—; University of California, Berkeley, professor. Head of conferences at the Ecole normale superieure, 1971-78; visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, 1976- 78; head of cultural mission for the ministry of foreign affairs to Hungary, 1973, and the United States, 1975. Ister (documentary film), appears as himself, 2004.


Association des amis des percussions de Strasbourg (president).


Named Lauréat de la faculté des lettres de Bordeaux.



(With Jean-Luc Nancy) Le titre de la lettre: Une Lecture de Lacan (essay), Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1973, translated as The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1992.

(Translator) Friedrich Hölderlin, Antigone de Sophocle, C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1978.

(With Jean-Luc Nancy and Anne Marie Lang) L'Absolu littéraire: Théorie de la littérature du romantisme allemand (essay), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1978, translated as The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1988.

Portrait de l'artiste, en général (essay; title means "Portrait of the Artist, in General"), C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1979.

Le Sujet de la philosophie (essay), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1979, translated by Thomas Trezise as The Subject of Philosophy, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Typographies (essay), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1979, translated as Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1989.

Les Fins de l'homme: À Partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: Colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980 (colloquium proceedings), Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1981.

(With François Martin) Retrait de l'artiste, en deux personnes (essay), MEM/Arte Facts (Lyon, France), 1985.

La Poésie comme expérience (essay), C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1986, translated by Andrea Tarnowski as Poetry As Experience, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1999.

L'Imitation des modernes (essay; title means "The Imitation of the Moderns"), Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1986.

(With Patrick Roegiers and Christopher Meatyard) Theatre des realites (essay; title means "Theater of Realities"), Metz pour la photographie (Metz, France), 1986.

La Fiction du politique: Heidegger, l'art et la politique (essay), C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1987, translated by Chris Turner as Heidegger, Art, and Politics: The Fiction of the Political, B. Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1990.

(With Michel Deutsch) Sit venia verbo (essay), C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1988.

Musica ficta: Figures de Wagner (essay), C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1991, translated as Musica ficta: Figures of Wagner, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1994.

(With Jean-Luc Nancy) Le Mythe Nazi (essay; title means "The Nazi Myth"), Éditions de l'Aube (La Tour d'Aigues, France), 1991.

Pasolini, une improvisation: (d'une sainteté), W. Blake (Bordeaux, France), 1995.

(With Jean-Luc Nancy) Retreating the Political, edited by Simon Sparks, Routledge (New York, NY), 1997.

(Translator) Friedrich Hölderlin, Oedipe le tyran de Sophocle, C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 1998.

Métaphrasis; suivi de, Le Théâtre de Hölderlin, Presses universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1998.

Phrase (essay), C. Bourgois (Paris, France), 2000.

Fraza/fhrase: poeme, Criterion (Norcross, GA), 2002.

Poétique de l'histoire (essays), Galilée (Paris, France), 2002.

Heidegger: la politque du poème (essay), Galilée (Paris, France), 2002.

Agonie terminée, agonie interminable (essay), Galilée (Paris, France), 2004.

Le dehors absolu, Thibaut Cuisset: [Publiéà l'occasion de l'exposition au palais des beauxarts de Lille dans le cadre des transphotographiques], photographs by Thibaut Cuisset, Filigranes (Trézélan, France), 2005.

Le chant des muses (essay), Bayard Centurion (Paris, France), 2005.


Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe is a French philosopher who has penned many works of his own and translated important works from German to French. He often writes of the influence of various literary, philosophical, and cultural figures on the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Some of his best-known titles include Le Sujet de la philosophie and La Fiction du politique: Heidegger, l'art et la politique. Lacoue-Labarthe has frequently collaborated with Jean-Luc Nancy, and their volumes together include L'Absolu littéraire: Théorie de la littérature du romantisme allemand. Many of Lacoue-Labarthe's works have been translated into English.

Discussing the translation of L'Absolu littéraire in a review for Modern Language Notes, Ian Balfour reported that it "should prove indispensible" and that "Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy distinguish themselves by their sustained effort to think with and through the writings of the German Romantics." According to Rakefet Sheffy in Poetics Today, the authors "undertake to examine the crisis and crystallization of concepts," and conclude that "the romantics … carried to the extreme Kant's notion of representation: the literary work not only represents ideas, it is actually the process of creating its objects itself."

In Le Sujet de la philosophie, Lacoue-Labarthe "offers unashamedly Nietzschean speculations by way of Freud and deconstruction to the current debate about the relationship between philosophy and literature," in the words of John Xiros Cooper in Canadian Philosophical Reviews. The philosopher asserts that philosophy has always needed to emphasize its distinction from literature, but that the repressed power of literature constantly threatens to overwhelm philosophy. "To sustain its dominance," explained Cooper, "philosophy requires a strict disciplinary regime which comes into being as the exacting antithesis of literature and the literary."

Lacoue-Labarthe's La Fiction du politique takes on the question of whether or not German philosopher Martin Heidegger's entire body of work is tainted with the stain of Nazism because he joined the Nazi Party during Adolf Hitler's regime. Many of Lacoue- Labarthe's colleagues have written on the matter, and some have taken the stand that Heidegger's embracing of the Nazi regime was a mistake, almost unintentional. Others believe that all of his philosophical theories must be rejected, having come from a Nazi. As Gregory Bruce Smith revealed in the American Political Science Review, "Lacoue-Labarthe argues that Adorno's understanding of the fascist infection of Heidegger's thought is mistaken. Nonetheless," Smith added, "he concludes that Heidegger's decision in 1933 [to join the Nazi Party] was no mistake." Smith went on to explain that Lacoue-Labarthe "argues that Heidegger consciously and resolutely opposed the central theoretical presuppositions of modern democratic political and moral life," but "concludes that while Heidegger's thought opened him to elements of national socialist ideology, it also allowed him to see where it was defective." Similarly, David E. Cooper in the Times Literary Supplement noted that "Lacoue- Labarthe offers sober defenses of Heidegger's thought."

In Musica ficta: Figures de Wagner, Lacoue-Labarthe examines the influence of German composer Richard Wagner on the German people and the eventual rise of fascism in Germany. He discusses the responses of four important European cultural figures to Wagner and his music, and concludes, according to F. Goossen in Choice, that Wagner "altered the relationship between art and civilization" because critics found his work of similar significance to the finest art of classical Greece and Rome, as well as that of medieval Europe. Reviewing the same work in Notes, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, despite reservations such as Lacoue- Labarthe's assumption of reader "familiarity with French poststructuralism and with his subjects' writings," concluded that she "consider[s] this book important because it makes music part of intellectual history."

As a translator Lacoue-Labarthe provided a modern French text to Antigone de Sophocle and Oedipe le tyran de Sophocle, by Friedrich Hölderlin, and also wrote about the German poet in Métaphrasis; suivi de, Le Théâtre de Hölderlin, as well as in his Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, a chapter of which, "The Caesura of the Speculative," discusses Antigone. As Tina Chanter noted in a review of that chapter in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Lacoue-Labarthe "argues that author Friedrich Hölderlin considered Antigone the tragedy of all tragedies and its central character is therefore the most tragic of tragic heroes."

Lacoue-Labarthe mixed his twin interests in Hölderlin and in Heidegger for his appearance as himself in the 2004 documentary, The Ister. The Ister is the ancient Greek name for the Danube River, and is also the title of a hymn-like poem to that river by Hölderlin. Further, Heidegger used that poem as the inspiration for a 1942 lecture course which took as its subject matter "many fields of inquiry, from poetry to politics, Sophocles to technology," according the Nathan Lee in a New York Times review of the film. Much of that philosophical content is furthered in interviews with contemporary European thinkers. Lacoue-Labarthe deals with Heidegger's acceptance of Nazism.



American Political Science Review, June, 1991, Gregory Bruce Smith, review of La Fiction du politique: Heidegger, l'art et la politique, pp. 616- 619.

Canadian Philosophical Review, August, 1995, John Xiros Cooper, review of The Subject of Philosophy, pp. 262-264.

Choice, June, 1995, F. Goossen, review of Musica ficta: Figures de Wagner, p. 1604.

differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, spring, 1998, Tina Chanter, "Tragic Dislocations: Antigone's Modern Theatrics," p. 75.

New York Times, February 10, 2006, Nathan Lee. "A Journey up the Danube, Philosophy Included," review of The Ister.

Modern Language Notes, April, 1989, Ian Balfour, review of The Literary Absolute, pp. 727-729.

Notes, June, 1997, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, review of Musica ficta, pp. 1180-1181.

Philosophy Today, fall, 1993, Todd May, "The Community's Absence in Lyotard, Nancy, and Lacoue- Labarthe. (Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe)," p. 275.

Poetics Today, 1988, Rakefet Sheffy, review of The Literary Absolute, pp. 891-892.

Review of Metaphysics, December, 1990, Joseph G. Kronick, review of Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, pp. 421-422.

Times Literary Supplement, November 23, 1990, David E. Cooper, "The Philosophy of Wonder," pp. 1269-1270.


Internet Movie Database, (June 25, 2006), author profile.

Ister Web site, (June 25, 2006).