Indiana University Bloomington


(For an archive of events, see here)


Fall 2016


Thinking With Derrida: A Symposium

Friday-Saturday, Nov. 4-5, 2016, Morrison Hall, Hoagie Carmichael Room

Hall Bjørnstad (Dept. of French & Italian), convener


Friday, Nov. 4

4 p.m.: Peggy McCracken (University of Michigan), “Metamorphosis and Living Death.”

Moderator: Patty Ingham (English, IU)

Abstract: This paper uses a twelfth-century translation from Ovid's Metamorphosis in order to think with Derrida about living death and human-animal metamorphoses. I embrace anachrony to put Derrida and the Old French Philomena in dialogue around questions of death and finitude, cannibalism and cremation, and animal response. These texts speak to each other most pointedly in the representation of a bird's call as both supplement and prosthesis, and I will argue that in the medieval text, an animal response invites an interrogation of human finitude and animal life in the metamorphosis of a woman into a bird.

Peggy McCracken is the Domna C. Stanton Collegiate Professor of French, Women's Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on medieval literature and culture, and she has authored or co-authored six books and co-edited four essay collections. Her most recent publications include a translation of Gui de Cambrai's Barlaam and Josaphat (Penguin, 2014) and the forthcoming In the Skin of a Beast: Sovereignty and Animality in Medieval France (Chicago, 2017).

5:30 p.m.: Reception


Saturday, Nov. 5

8:45 a.m.: Refreshments

9:15 a.m.: Katie Chenoweth (Princeton University), “‘The Print of my own Foot’: Three Books from Derrida’s Library.”

Moderator: Alison Calhoun (French & Italian, IU)

Abstract: Derrida’s Beast and the Sovereign II stages a strange scene of reading: the philosopher with two books, one in each hand, as if they were the only books in his library, or perhaps the only books in the world. Derrida’s editions of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Heidegger’s Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics appear repeatedly as technical and material objects to be opened, handled, cited, read and reread “step by step” as he proceeds through the seminar. In this talk I will be looking at Derrida’s heavily annotated copies of these texts, which are now housed with the rest of his personal library at Princeton University. What kinds of traces do we encounter in these books, and how are we—like Robinson alone on the beach—to read them? What do Derrida’s practices of reading and annotating suggest about the central questions of his final seminar such as death, solitude, sovereignty, and survival? What kind of a world is Derrida’s library—as secluded island, sovereign domain, or archive? For this final question I will turn to another book found alongside Robinson Crusoe on Derrida’s bedside table in his library: Montaigne’s Essays.

Katie Chenoweth is Assistant Professor in the Department of French and Italian at Princeton University. She specializes in the history of books and other media with a focus on the sixteenth century. She has published articles on Montaigne, print culture, and deconstruction, and is currently completing a manuscript on language and technology in Renaissance France titled The French Machine: Inventing a Modern Medium. She is also involved in several collaborative projects related to the work of Derrida, including co-editing a volume on the relationship between Derrida and Montaigne, participating regularly in the Derrida Seminars Translation Project workshop, and, with the support of the Princeton Center for Digital Humanities, heading up a long-term project to digitize annotations from Derrida’s library.

10:45 a.m.: Coffee break

11:15 a.m.: Panel

Patricia C. Ingham (English, IU), “The Ape of Civilization.”
Nazareth Pantaloni III (IU Libraries), “Hauntology, Unlearning, and the University without Condition: A Letter to the Theory Center Reading Group.”
Johannes Türk (Germanic Studies, IU), “Facing Death: Sovereignty and the Phantasms of Life.”

12:30 p.m.: Lunch break

2 p.m.: Meeting of the Theory Center Reading Group with external guests (this event takes place at the College Arts & Humanities Institute, 1211 E Atwater Ave.).

Introduction by Jacob Boss and Rachel Carpenter, followed by discussion of short passages from The Beast and the Sovereign (Vol. 2).

3:45 p.m.: David Wills (Brown University), “The Sovereign Time of Terror.”

Moderator: Oana Panaïté (French & Italian, IU)

Abstract: In his analysis, in Session 8 of The Beast and the Sovereign, Vol. 1, of Celan’s “Meridian” speech, Derrida draws attention to what the poet specifies regarding “the most idiosyncratic quality of the Other, its time.” According to Celan’s logic, what qualifies the other, what must be accorded the other above all else, is “time.” My paper will relate that deconstruction of onto-theological sovereignty to the question of time that was developed in the previous Death Penalty seminars (1999-2001), in the idea that “what we rebel against when we rebel against the death penalty is not death” but rather that the instant of death becomes “the object of a calculating decision.” Such an appropriation of the instant of death of a mortal is repeated in various ways throughout the application of the death penalty. I will concentrate on the “absolute” version of that appropriation analyzed by Blanchot, in “Literature and the Right to Death,” as what might be called the time of terror.

David Wills is visiting professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Professor of French Studies and Comparative Literature at Brown University. His publications include books on film theory, and on Thomas Pynchon, as well as Matchbook: Essays in Deconstruction (Stanford, 2005) and a three volume analysis of the originary prostheticity of the human: Prosthesis (Stanford, 1995), Dorsality (Minnesota, 2008) and Inanimation (Minnesota, 2016). He has translated works by Derrida (Right of InspectionCounterpathThe Gift of Death, and The Animal That Therefore I Am), and is a founding member of the Derrida Seminars Translation Project. He is completing a book entitled Killing Times: the Temporal Technology of the Death Penalty.

5:15 p.m.: Coffee break

5:30 p.m.: Final Roundtable

Introductions by Jacob Emery, Izabela Potapowicz and Lucas Wood.


For older events, see here.