The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

Synopsis

The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments follows the remarkable itinerary of Jacques Derrida's final seminar, "The Beast and the Sovereign" (2001-3), as the explicit themes of the seminar namely, sovereignty and the question of the animal come to be supplemented and interrupted by questions of death, mourning, survival, the archive, and, especially, the end of the world.

The book begins with Derrida's analyses, in the first year of the seminar, of the question of the animal in the context of his other published works on the same subject. It then follows Derrida through the second year of the seminar, presented in Paris from December 2002 to March 2003, as a very different tone begins to make itself heard, one that wavers between melancholy and an extraordinary lucidity with regard to the end. Focusing the entire year on just two works, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Martin Heidegger's seminar of 1929-30, "The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics," the seminar comes to be dominated by questions of the end of the world and of an originary violence that at once gives rise to and effaces all things.

The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments follows Derrida as he responds from week to week to these emerging questions, as well as to important events unfolding around him, both world events the aftermath of 9/11, the American invasion of Iraq and more personal ones, from the death of Maurice Blanchot to intimations of his own death less than two years away. All this, the book concludes, makes this final seminar an absolutely unique work in Derrida's corpus, one that both speaks of death as the end of the world and itself now testifies to that end just one, though hardly the least, of its many teachable moments.

Excerpt

Those who had the good fortune to attend even a single session of a Jacques Derrida seminar know just what a chance, what a boon—just what an event—the project to publish the entire series of his seminars represents for anyone interested in his work. Admired by readers and scholars the world over at the time of his death in October 2004 for the more than seventy books he had published during his lifetime, Derrida was known to his students perhaps first and foremost as an engaging lecturer and an exemplary pedagogue who, every Wednesday afternoon in his seminar in Paris, presented readings of works from the entire history of philosophy and literature. As rigorous and careful as they were innovative and inspiring, these readings taught generations of students not only about various philosophical and literary themes, figures, and problems but also, and more important, about how to read, how to question, and, thus, how to teach in turn. the publication of the seminars will thus bring to fuller awareness a very different aspect of Derrida’s philosophical practice. Since the seminars differ greatly from Derrida’s published works, and since only a mere fraction of the seminar materials has been made available before now, the result will be what can only be characterized as a wholly other corpus besides the one we already know, a second corpus that will no doubt cause us to reconsider everything we know or think we know about Jacques Derrida.

For more than forty years, Derrida held a weekly, two- hour seminar in Paris, first at the Sorbonne (1960–64), then at the École Normale Supérieure . . .

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