Nancy, Jean-Luc 1940–
Nancy, Jean-Luc 1940–
PERSONAL: Born July 26, 1940, in Caudèran, France; son of Roger (an engineer) and Jacqueline (Gendronneau) Nancy; married Claire Matet, July 11, 1963; children: Anne, Geneviève. Education: University of Paris, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—6 rue Charles Grad, 67000 Strasbourg, France. Office—University of Strasbourg, 67000 Strasbourg, France.
CAREER: Philosophy teacher in Bartholdi, France, 1964–68; University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, assistant professor, 1968–72, professor of philosophy, 1972–. Director of conferences at École Normale Supérieure de Paris, beginning 1971; cofounder, Center of Philosophical Research of the Political, 1980–84. Guest professor at University of Berlin, 1973–74, and at American universities, including University of California at Irvine, 1975. Professional artist, exhibiting work at shows with François Martin. Member, Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-salle. Codirector of exhibit "La Philosophie en Effet."
MEMBER: Groupe de Recherches sur les Théories du Signe et du Texte, Groupe de Recherches et d'Études sur la Philosophie.
(With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe) Le titre de la lettre: une lecture de Lacan, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1973, translated by François Raffoul and David Pettigrew as The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1992.
Le remarque spéculative: un bon mot de Hegel, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1973, translated by Céline Surprenant as The Speculative Remark: One of Hegel's Bons Mots, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2001.
Le discours de la syncope, Aubier-Flammarion (Paris, France), 1976.
(With François Laruelle) Le déclin de l'écriture, Aubier-Flammarion (Paris, France), 1977.
(With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Anne Marie Lang) L'absolu littéraire: theéorie de la littérature du romantisme allemand, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1978, translation published as The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1988.
Ego sum, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1979.
(Editor, with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe) Les fins de l'homme: à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1981.
Le partage des voix, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1982.
L'impératif catégorique, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1983.
(With Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Eric Michaud) Hypnoses, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1984.
La communauté désoeuvrée, Christian Bourgois (Paris, France), 1986, revised edition, 1989, translated and edited by Peter Connor as The Inoperative Community, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.
(With Michel Deutsch, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Jean Christophe Bailly) El Sisisi, Christian Bourgois (Paris, France), 1986.
L'oubli de la philosophie, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1986.
(With others) Fragment et le Herisson, Musée de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix (Sables d'Olonne, France), 1986.
Des lieux divins (also see below), Trans-Europ-Repress (Mauvezin, France), 1987.
L'expérience de la liberté, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1988, translated by Bridget McDonald as The Experience of Freedom, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1993.
Une pensée finie, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1990, translation edited by Simon Sparks as A Finite Thinking, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2003.
(Editor, with Eduardo Cadava and Peter Connor) Who Comes after the Subject? (essays), Routledge (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe) Le mythe nazi, Editions de l'Aube (La Tour d'Aigues, France), 1991.
Le poids d'une pensée, Éditions le Griffon d'Argile (Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Canada), 1991, translated by François Raffoul and Gregory Recco as The Gravity of Thought, Humanities Press (Atlantic Highlands, NJ), 1997.
(With Jean Christophe Bailly) La comparution: politique à venir, Christian Bourgois (Paris, France), 1991.
Corpus, Métailié(Paris, France), 1992.
Du sublime, Belin (Paris, France), 1992.
Les muses, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1992, translated by Peggy Kamuf as The Muses, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1996.
(With François Martin) Nium-in diesem sinne-point final, Reyne et Deldon (Valence, France), 1993.
The Birth of Presence, translated by Brian Holmes and others, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1993.
Le sens du monde, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1993, revised edition, 2001, translated by Jeffrey S. Librrett as The Sense of the World, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
La naissance des seins, École Regionale des Beaux-Arts (Valence, France), 1996.
Être singulier pluriel, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 1996, translated by Robert D. Richardson and Anne E. O'Byrne as Being Singular Plural, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2000.
Hegel: l'inquiétude du négatif, Hachette (Paris, France), 1997, translated by Jason Smith and Steven Miller as Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
(With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe) Retreating the Political (essays), edited by Simon Sparks, Routledge (New York, NY), 1997.
Des lieux divins suivi de Calcul du poete, Trans-Europ-Repress (Mauvezin, France), 1997.
(With François Martin) Nium, École des Beaux Arts (Paris, France), 1998.
(Editor, with Penelope Deutscher and Kelly Oliver) Enigmas: Essays on Sarah Kofman, Cornell University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Los Angeles; ou, La ville au loin, Mille et une Nuits (Paris, France), 1999.
(With François Martin) Le soleil se couche, moi aussie, Centre Européen d'Actions Artistiques Contemporaines (Strasbourg, France), 1999.
Le regard du portrait, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2000.
(With Jean-Claude Conesa) Passages, les ambassadeurs, suivi de "Être, c'est être perçu," Cahiers Intempestifs (Paris, France), 2000.
Communitas: origine et destin de la communauté, Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 2000.
Der Eindringling = L'intrus. Das fremde Herz, translation by Alexander Garcia Düttmann, Merve-Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 2000.
(With Peter Szendy) Ecoute: une histoire de nos oreilles, Éditions de Minuit (Paris, France), 2001.
(With François Martin) La pensée dérobée, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2001.
(With Simon Hantaï and Jacques Derrida) La connaissance des textes: Lecture d'un manuscrit illissible (correspondence), Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2001.
L'il y a du rapport sexuel, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2001.
Visitation, de la peinture chrétienne, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2001.
(With Marc Bélit, Alain Lestié, Elisabeth Rigal, and Gérard Granel) Granel: l'éclat, le combat, l'ourvert, Belin (Paris, France), 2001.
L'évidence du film: Abbas Kiarostami = The Evidence of Film: Abbas Kiarostami (in French, English, and Persian), Yves Gevaert (Brussels, Belgium), 2001.
La communauté affrontée, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2001.
(With others) Sans commune mesure: image et texte dans l'art actuel, L. Scheer (Paris, France), c. 2002.
À l'écoute, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2002.
La création du monde; ou, La mondialisation, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2002.
Noli me tangere: essai sur la levée du corps, Bayard (Paris, France), 2003.
La déclosion, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2005.
The Ground of the Image, translated by Jeff Fort, Fordham University Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Multiple Arts: The Muses II, edited by Simon Sparks, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2005.
Sur le commerce des pensées, illustrated by Jean Le Gac, Éditions Galilée (Paris, France), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy is one of the most prominent and provocative thinkers writing and teaching today. Influenced by the works of Jacques Derrida and a scholar of past philosophers who has written extensively on Martin Heidegger, Nancy concerns himself with broad concepts in society, such as the ideas of freedom, community, and art. Although he has been publishing books since the 1970s, it was not until the early 1990s that his works began to be released in English translations. This, in turn, has brought him more attention in the United States, increasing his impact on philosophical debate.
Two early works, in particular, encapsulate much of Nancy's philosophical notions; first bringing him attention in Europe in the 1980s before they were translated into English are La communauté désoeuvrée, which was translated in 1990 as The Inoperative Com-munity, and Des lieux divins, translated as The Experience of Freedom in 1993. In the former, Nancy discusses his unique concept of "community," which to him is the opposite of many people's ideas that a community is a group of people within a society bound together by laws, traditions, and codes of ethics. To Nancy's mind, communities have evolved in society with the ulterior motive of taking advantage of the work provided by its average members. In this interpretation, community does not possess the liberating, comforting connotation with which most people associate the term. "What Nancy wants to imagine," explained John McGowan in a Southern Humanities Review article, "is a community not based on the work it can extract, but working to unravel such work by being based on that which undoes work." McGowan, who found this concept to be both "brilliant" and "convoluted," noted: "Here is that post-structuralist perversity we have come to love or hate (or both) according to our own singular predilections."
Besides presenting his arguments about the concept of community, The Inoperative Community also lays the groundwork for Nancy's more recent writings about society and politics. In The Experience of Freedom he again demonstrates his tendency to take a cherished term and turn it upside down to reveal a previously undiscovered underside. While most people would associate the word "freedom" with positive ideas of liberty and virtue, Nancy points out that true freedom means being without restraints, free to pursue both good and evil practices. Linked to the boundaries of society, the idea of freedom has become chained by "the law on one hand, and to an ontology of subjectivity in philosophy on the other," related G. Gabrielle Starr in the Canadian Philosophical Review. Building on the work of Heidegger, which he closely analyses in the book, along with that of other philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Nancy acknowledges that the idea that freedom has been enslaved is paradoxical. His arguments are only one step in a search for a type of freedom that is not subjective. Critics of The Experience of Freedom found it a challenging but important work and one not designed for the average lay reader. H. Oberdick, writing in Choice, for example, noted that readers need to be "au courant with contemporary French and German philosophy" in order to understand the book. Starr concluded that the work "is equal to Nancy's other works, thought provoking and intriguing, as usual. However, it can be a difficult read for those not familiar with his arguments in The Inoperative Community, or for those who are not well-versed in Kantian or Heideggerian thought."
In addition to his work as a professor and author, Nancy is also fascinated by the arts, including theater, the cinema, and literature; he himself is a poet and a capable artist who has exhibited his work professionally. Combining his interest in art and philosophy, he wrote the book Les muses, translated as The Muses in 1992. In some ways reminiscent of his writings about the concept of freedom, The Muses "seeks to free [art] … from its subjugation to philosophical determination," as S. Barnett observed in a Choice review.
One of the most persistently enigmatic problems posed in philosophy has to do with the nature of existence, both of the individual and of the world itself. Nancy tackles this ontological question head on in Le sens du monde, translated in 1997 as The Sense of the World. In a world in which the existence of a divine being is called into question more and more, the definition of existence and how and why the world makes sense (or does not make sense) becomes problematic. Nancy points out that, minus the simple answer that the existence of God provides sense and meaning to the world, we are operating in a world with no straightforward solution to the definition of sense. However, this does not mean that our existence is nonsensical; rather, it means that the underlying, still unsolved riddles of the world are more complex and nuanced than we once expected. Robert Scott, writing in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, found much to praise in Nancy's book. "Original, rigorous analyses of timely topics have distinguished Nancy as one of the leading social and political thinkers of our day," Scott asserted. "Readers of Nancy who have come to expect innovative, rewarding texts will not be let down by Sense." Choice critic S. Barnett had similar high praise, asserting that Nancy "is breathing new life into a stream of Continental thought that seemed to be ossifying," and in the Review of Metaphysics Brian E. Bowles concluded that the book is "indispensable reading" that "should be read as Nancy's own praxis of this sense of the world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, summer, 2001, Robert Scott, review of The Sense of the World, pp. 459-461.
Artforum International, summer, 1997, Rosalind E. Krauss, review of The Muses, p. S20.
Canadian Philosophical Review, April, 1995, G. Gabrielle Star, review of The Experience of Freedom, pp. 131-131.
Choice, September, 1994, H. Oberdick, review of The Experience of Freedom, p. 128; March, 1997, S. Barnett, review of The Muses, p. 1176; September, 1998, S. Barnett, review of The Sense of the World, p. 145; October, 2001, C.E. Reagan, review of Being Singular Plural, p. 324.
College Literature, spring, 2003, Kalliopi Nikolopoulou, "'L'art et les gens': Jean-Luc Nancy's Genealogical Aesthetics," article on The Muses, p. 174.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, spring, 1995, review of The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan, p. 162.
MLN, April, 1989, review of The Literary Absolute, pp. 726-729.
Parachute, October-December, 2000, Chantal Pontbriand, "Jean-Luc Nancy," pp. 14-30.
Review of Metaphysics, June, 1995, Leslie Armour and Suzie Johnston, review of The Birth of Presence, p. 918; March, 1996, William Davie, review of The Experience of Freedom, p. 667; June, 1999, Brian E. Bowles, review of The Sense of the World, pp. 961-962.
Southern Humanities Review, fall, 1993, John McGowan, review of The Inoperative Community, pp. 388-391.
Studies in Romanticism, summer, 1990, review of The Literary Absolute, p. 309.